17th August 2020 (UK VOD Premiere)
A retired assassin's past catches up with him and his brutality surfaces as he goes on a final killing spree to make things right.
Paul O'Brien, Aji Santosa, Verdi Solaiman
In Corey Pearson’s largely subdued actioner Message Man, retired assassin Ryan Teller tries to escape his former life by living a quiet existence in Indonesia. While there, he befriends a young boy named Doni and becomes close to his family. But when a band of human traffickers and all-round unsavoury characters interfere in Ryan’s tranquil life, he soon discovers that the past is impossible to run from.
Indonesia has been something of an underdog in the action movie genre. In the last decade, it has graced us with the superb Raid: Redemption (with Alfridus Godfred, the one with a machete and searing stare also appearing here) and its sequel as well as the utltra-violent Netflix Original The Night Comes For Us and Headshot. Message Man unfortunately does not join these ranks.
From his introduction, my first thought about lead Paul O’Brien was “If Eric Bana was a TV Soap Opera star, he would be this guy”. Lo and behold, O’Brien spent a four-year stint on the well known Australian drama series Home & Away and his performance indicates he never really graduated from small screen to big. His character is also problematic. He’s virtually a robot who follows orders. I half expected a CGI HUD showing the point of view of Ryan which indicates who is ‘GOOD’ and ‘BAD’ when looking in their direction. As a result, there’s very little reason to care what happens to him. His mission to rid the village of traffickers is undeniably valiant, it’s just disappointing that the one delivering the justice has the depth of a postage stamp.
As for the action, there’s actually very little of it in the first hour. It’s extremely bottom-heavy with its combat sequences and even then they’re more like flurried outbursts straight from the Michael Bay School of Rapid Cuts (note to self: stop with the educational institute references). A creative pull-out showing Ryan’s rampage across the island signified by muzzle flashes coming from houses is a neat touch, but gives the impression that he covers miles of ground in mere seconds. The enemies he faces off against are no match for his particular set of skills and it never feels like he’s ever in any real danger.
Still, there’s a handful of inventive executions, mostly carried out with a knife, and the final twenty minutes contain enough action to make up for the near hour-long drought that precede it.
Message Man is available on UK VOD Platforms from 17th August 2020 through Signature Entertainment.
Some inventive kills and creative camera work
Location is one that we rarely see in cinema
Early relationship between Doni and Ryan appears sincere
No charisma or depth to lead
Need to be patient to wait for the rapidly cut action to arrive
Never feels like he's in any real danger