When a top-secret weapon falls into mercenary hands, a wild card CIA agent joins forces with three international agents on a lethal mission to retrieve it, while staying a step ahead of a mysterious woman who's tracking their every move. (from IMDB)
When you think of the action/spy genre, franchises like James Bond, Jason Bourne and Mission: Impossible probably come to mind first and foremost. While one could argue that few film entries can compete with those brands, there really seems to be a lack of female-fronted series. Angelina Jolie threw her name into the ring with 2010's Salt, and there have been some others that haven't been quite as high profile, but none of them have really stuck or were able to get a series of movies off the ground. The latest attempt to start something fresh is The 355, a star-studded action film that unites some serious talent from a varied cultural background to kick the pants off anyone bold enough to go up against them. Uniting celebrated actresses like Jessica Chastain, Diane Kruger, Lupita Nyong'o, Bingbing Fan, and Penélope Cruz, The 355 seems like it just can't lose. Sadly, the movie proves, yet again, that assembling an impressive cast isn't enough to guarantee success.
Admittedly, The 355 is not a total loss. The strong cast, exotic locations, and action-heavy sequences keep the film entertaining. It's really in the script and direction in which the film falters. The aforementioned spy franchises have proven that kick-butt heroines are more than possible, with Ana de Armas as Paloma in No Time To Die and Rebecca Ferguson's Ilsa in Mission: Impossible; these are both characters who could totally pull off their own spin-off series, given the right scripts. It's definitely not that this cast isn't up to the task. One disgruntled user review on IMDb complained that the women in this film are past their prime and much too old for roles like this, but I wouldn't say that's fair. The ladies seem to hold their own just fine. The biggest problem with The 355 is in its execution. From the relentless chasing after an underwhelming MacGuffin for the entire film to some cheesy dialog and a lack of standout male characters, the film falls short. Most of the male characters are reduced to cliched caricatures, which actually cheapens the overall feel of the movie. You'd think that strong male characters could only illustrate just how tough these ladies really are, but despite some good actors being cast here, their characters are just, well... lame. In fact, unfortunately, "cliche" is the overall feel this movie has. I was looking forward to it since its first trailer, but it just doesn't live up to its potential.
The biggest problem The 355 has is its lack of freshness and originality. It tries, but flounders. It even makes an attempt at a twist or two in the plot, but it doesn't really work and feels forced and contrived. It's one of those stories where what a character does doesn't seem to make much sense for the character and only really seems to happen because it'd be added drama and tension. Sadly, it doesn't work because it doesn't feel like a natural turn for the character. Then the actor playing the character gives such a cocky and smug performance that it just makes it all that much worse. In the end, it makes the film feel weaker. The other problem is in how rushed the story feels at times. For a 2-hour movie, you'd think it wouldn't be the case, but many of the characters aren't given much depth or setup, so it's tough to get involved in their stories. However, one of the most shocking and dramatic scenes in the entire film still manages to land an emotional gut-punch--to the film's credit. Lupita Nyong'o and Penélope Cruz probably have the more rounded and relatable characters in the movie, and they both bring some heart to the story, but it isn't quite enough to elevate the entire film.
I'm a fan of some of Jessica Chastain's work, and I especially loved her characters in movies like Interstellar and The Martian. However, here, it may be a slight stretch to have her as an action hero. I can't say if a better script or direction would have helped, but the way her character, Mace, is used here isn't as effective. I also loved Diane Kruger in the National Treasure movies and in Unknown, but she's a little tougher to warm up to as the more aggressive and prickly Marie in The 355. It's also poorly illustrated as to exactly where her allegiance lies and why she does some of the things she does.
The content for The 355 is decidedly PG-13, but the violence pushes the envelope at times. Several characters get gunned down in cold blood and/or execution style, with it just barely NOT being shown on screen. Some of the action has bloody results, but it's usually in the form of scratches and scrapes. At least two instances where gunshot wounds through clothing should be bloodier, they're shown more so as just dark grey circles on the victim's clothing. It seems as if the filmmakers went to great lengths to not show graphic violence, but pull back just before it would be. Language is surprisingly infrequent, but Chastain uses the "F" word once in the movie, and there's a mix of the usual cuss words, like the "S" word, "S.O.B," and some blasphemy. There are also a few instances where some mild language is written out in foreign language-to-English subtitles. Overall, though, I was surprised how little language was in the movie (especially after seeing a more youth-oriented movie like Uncharted having pretty frequent profanity). Lastly, there's one scene of suggested sex as Chastain unbuttons her shirt, revealing a bra underneath and keeps the shirt on as a man pulls her onto a bed as they kiss. The scene ends there though. (We later see flashbacks of the two lying in bed afterwards with no shirts on, but no explicit nudity is seen.) There's also an out-of-nowhere diss towards God when Lupita's Khadijah says "God is great" in a foreign language to Chastain's character, Mace, and as Khadijah walks away, Mace says "hasn't been my experience with him." (Boooo!)
When all is said and done, The 355 is at best an average action thriller, and at worst a spy genre retread that lacks imagination and is destined to be found in a Walmart bargain bin. A great cast makes this one watchable for fans of the actors or the genre, but otherwise, The 355 is a decent concept that is squandered by poor execution.
Deleted Scenes (6:21) - There are only two deleted scenes. The first makes up the bulk of them and shows Luis and Graciela in Luis's hotel room. She makes him remove his shirt to clean a wound on his side (which we kind of see). She finds his gun and they argue over what he'd do with the package they're trying to retrieve. The last bit shows Khadijah getting on a radio and disguising her voice, digitally, as the bad guys' voice to divert them.
Chasing Through Paris (4:59) - The were given permission to shoot through some of historic areas of the city of Paris. They talk about the joys and challenges of shooting on location and give us some great behind-the-scenes footage of the motorcycle chase in Paris. (2 "a" words)
Action That Hurts (5:28) - They cover shooting at the fish market in London England, and trying to make the stunts look real and violent. Jessica talks about trying to do as many stunts herself as possible and how her past history as a ballerina helped her with fight scene choreography. (1 "a" word)
Reconstructing Marrakesh (5:36) - They had wanted to go to Morocco to shoot but couldn't, so they built a market from scratch on a studio backlot in 2019! It's pretty impressive. (1 "a" word)
Chaos at the City of Dreams (3:52) - This segment covers the violent, action-packed finale. We see lots of behind-the-scenes footage of the girls crashing the hotel room and filming their fights.
- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 2/23/22)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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