ST. LOUIS — By the time I finished Simon Kinberg's "The 355," I found myself wondering about salaries and demand instead of the quality of the film. That was determined very early on in the two-hour-plus running time.
If you're wondering why Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong'o, Penelope Cruz, and Diane Kruger did this movie--welcome to the party. A terribly underwritten and overly stylized high-budget affair of a movie where the plot is about as useless as the reason for the movie to exist in the first place.
What is it about? See if you've heard this one before. A group of highly trained women-different personalities yet similar amounts of cunningness-come together in the effort of defeating global evil. A weapon has fallen into bad hands, and these ladies are the only chance of saving the world. Each of them is particularly good at one ability or has a certain required trait, whether it be fighting or psychological. They will bicker, fight, bicker some more, fight each other, and occasionally fight in training. When they're not doing that, they are dressed to the nines and healing incredibly fast.
The main problem is that Kinberg, a better screenwriter and producer than director, hired award-caliber actors to play low-grade roles. It didn't work. Chastain is adept at "Molly's Game" or "The Eyes of Tammy Faye," not this "Charlie's Angels" rip-off. She tried this recently with the direct-to-dvd "Ava," which was only redeemed by an unusual fight between Colin Farrell and John Malkovich.
"The 355" lacks that sizzle reel moment, or a shred of anything worth remembering as one is driving home. This is the kind of movie that a theater dumps into theaters, hoping the scent doesn't attract too big of an audience; like someone farting in an elevator before escaping as the doors close. When I say there's about nothing worth noting or remembering in this film, I am not lying or movie-hating. One moment late in the film carries some real stakes and amps up the suspense for a few minutes, but the whole sequence felt like it dropped out of a better movie. Maybe, that was just the one well-written and performed scene.
Nyong'o, who burst onto the scene with Steve McQueen's "12 Years A Slave," is woefully overqualified for her role--which lacks a resemblance of original personality. She struck down hard in Hollywood and then disappeared, which is what her co-stars do in their roles here. Cruz is a fine actress and tries to lift up a few unintentionally laughable scenes, but most of the time she looks like someone who wandered onto the wrong set and lost her phone and/or assistant.
Edgar Ramirez shows up, which is more of a match for this material than the rest of the ensemble. That's not a shot at Ramirez (Choco from Tony Scott's "Domino), but more of a reflection of his IMDB page. Diane Kruger can't decide between accents when she is not delivering pummeling blows or receiving them. I still can't see anything other than the one of the weakest links of "Troy" manifesting in a different character. She doesn't bring much to the party.
Neither does Sebastian Stan. He usually looks like he's half-asleep in his roles, but here his performance isn't even good to go with the morose expression. Then again, while his paycheck cleared, I wouldn't look too happy to be here either.
But if there's a real culprit, it's Kinberg--or whoever hired him to direct this movie. In addition to a single episode of the (newer) "Twilight Zone," he has now directed this bomb and one of the worst "X-Men" movies in "Dark Phoenix" (it was worse than Apocalypse, trust me). While people like to bash Netflix for their at-times low grade material, I would watch "Red Notice"-over the top yet funny and looser-over "The 355." Also, one of those films knows exactly what it wants to be. "The 355" doesn't have much of a personality. Even the soundtrack is recycled and forgettable. You have to give us something for the $10-12 the box office will be asking for (don't waste a cheap Tuesday matinee on this one either.)
What people forget about studios and releases is that each of them have these types of turds stuffed away in their disposal; the wiser ones just don't allow them to be released anywhere outside of an ITunes account. This is the kind of movie that if you truly asked the CEO of Universal Pictures if he or she liked this film, the answer would be spelled with two letters instead of three.
"NO." That's my answer to whether or not you should see this movie.