Red Mercury

Dir: Roy Battersby
Star: Juliet Stevenson, Navin Chowdhry, Peter Postlethwaite, Stockard Channing

Three Muslim terrorists narrowly escape a raid on their London apartment; pursued by the police, they take hostages and hole up in a Greek restaurant. However, they have their "mojo" with them, a mysterious device whose explosive power, based on the titular substance, is potentially of disastrous proportions - and they remain intent on completing their mission. On the outside are MI5 counter-terrorist export Sofia Warburton (Stevenson) and Commissioner Gold (Postlethwaite), who try to unravel the situation safely, while withstanding pressures both political and personal. But is everything quite what it seems?

A slightly-different, and fairly British take on the siege genre, written by an Asian (presumably Muslim) writer - as a result, it's admirably even-handed in its treatment. The terrorists aren't one-dimensional caricatures, though there's surprisingly little discussion of their motives, even as they trade barbs with their hostages. The scenes inside the restaurant work well, and would probably make a good foundation for a play - despite Channing's laughable "Greek" accent, in her role as the owner. Outside, however, it's less effective: Sofia's domestic issues are annoying, badly-handled, distractions that add nothing to the film. Some elements are also charitably decribed as "convenient", such as her ex-husband being a red mercury expert, or the revelation that allows her to uncover a coded message. On the other hand, one glorious twist near the end throws everything into a new light. If the rest of the script is too weakly-plotted to work, that moment alone, justifies its existence.

[The film is released in the US on June 5th, in widescreen. For more information, visit MTI's website.]

June 2007

Better red than dead
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