The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan

"PLASTIC"

Plastic

The British thriller Plastic is one of those movies that looks and sounds like it's going to be a lot of fun. It has a killer premise, a stylish trailer, and a cast of promising up-and-coming young actors. Then you start to watch it and realize that it's not much fun at all. Allegedly based on a true story, the film starts off as a freewheeling Ocean's Eleven-style heist picture and then inexplicably veers into the realm of a would-be gritty cautionary tale. One approach or the other might have worked. Together, they lead to an unfortunate mess.

Ed Speleers (Downton Abbey) and Will Poulter (The Maze Runner, We're the Millers) play Sam and Fordy, the leaders of a group of college students who run a successful credit card scam from their dorm rooms. During one of their operations, they inadvertently rip off a vicious gangster named Marcel (Thomas Kretschmann). He tracks them down, promising to put them six feet underground if they don't pay him back, with interest. Now faced with trying to scrounge up two million bucks, Sam and Fordy con a foxy credit card company worker, Frankie (Emma Rigby), into accompanying them to Miami in order to rip off some “high stakes” individuals. That plan goes afoul thanks to an excursion involving strippers and booze. Plan B entails pulling off a complicated diamond heist. The question is whether the team members can curb their developing animosities toward each other long enough to make it work.

Again, it's a pretty great premise that Plastic doesn't know how to maximize. A big problem is that the characters not very well-drawn. The screenplay doesn't take the time to establish them as individuals. At most, each character gets one defining pseudo-trait. We don't know much about them, except that they're all unlikable. That's another weird thing about the movie: everyone in it is a criminal. Plastic asks us to root for a bunch of punk kids who unrepentantly steal from others. They aren't exactly heroes. Had the film drawn them three-dimensionally, or given us more details about who they really are, it might be possible to root for them in an antihero kind of way. But since they're all paper thin, there's really no one in this story to get behind.

The diamond scheme they try to pull off is also kind of confusing. It's not always clear what they're attempting to do. Director Julian Gilbey is very concerned with giving these scenes a flashy style and jaunty Ocean's Eleven-style pace, yet he does so at the expense of clarity. For something like this to work, the audience has to understand every step the characters are taking, as well as the reasoning behind it. That doesn't happen here, leading to moments of bafflement. It's odd, too, that Sam and Fordy have access to major items (planes, limos, miniature tracking devices) at a moment's notice. We get only a vague explanation for how they accomplish this. Conveniently, they also become master disguise artists when needed. Don't ask where that skill comes from. You won't get an answer.

The actors are as good as the material allows them to be, and Plastic certainly is pretty to look at. Ultimately, though, it's an empty experience. Scenes meant to be funny are weighted down by an excess of violence and menace, while the cautionary tale aspects are undermined by the attempts to make light of the characters' actions. This is a film that should either be a fun caper comedy or a thoughtful dramatic exploration on the dangers of engaging in fraud. By trying to be both, it ends up being neither.

( 1/2 out of four)


Plastic is rated R for strong violence, sexual content/nudity, language throughout and some drug use. The running time is 1 hour and 42 minutes.


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