Ham Radio: A review of Special Correspondents

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Frank Bonneville (Eric Bana) and his sound technician Ian Finch (Ricky Gervais) lose their plane tickets and are forced to fake war correspondents from a war-torn Equador in a small bedroom above a restaurant. Yet when things go south and the world believes that they’ve been kidnapped, they must actually travel to the country to set things right.

For all it’s small successes, Netflix just can’t catch a break with it’s original Films. First putting your faith in a racist Adam Sandler movie was a bad sign and now giving Ricky Gervais free reign in a socio-political movie about war correspondents, well that’s not particularly smart. The wonderful thing about the Netflix’s and Amazon Prime’s of the world is that it allows creators to push boundaries and make something fresh or new yet there is nothing groundbreaking about Special Correspondents.

It’s nowhere near as heinous as the ‘The Ridiculous Six’ but in all honesty, it isn’t particularly great either. It’s a disappointment really as I’m a big fan of Gervais, but perhaps it’s clear that without somebody to reign him in, his mix of horribly sentimental and gross vulgarity don’t end up going well together.

Thus Special Correspondents, written, directed and starring him, falls into similar traps, one minute it features an unnecessary romantic subplot between Gervais’s Finch and MacDonalds Maddox, then it goes for a joke about testicles. It never fits.

That’s why it’s such an awkward film. Gervais is a better actor when he’s reacting to others or playing a heightened character like Brent, instead of being a leading man himself. There’s a little of Derek and a little of his character from The Invention of Lying in this performance but it doesn’t feel like a new character and his performance never really gels with anyone else.

Bana doesn’t fair much better, he’s a suave leading man but without a clear sense of who he is. There’s no indication of why he is the main guy, it could’ve been any white, hunky celebrity and the film would be exactly the same.

The rest of the film’s cast are all game enough, Farmiga in particular, gets a sizeable role, but the film is too long and her scenes stuff it.

There’s also a snarky, retrograde attitude towards gamer culture and people who collect figurines and play games, despite Finch being one of these people, he’s treated badly for it and it’s unfair and insulting.

This would all probably be minor if the Film was more funny, but at nearly 2 hours, it’s seriously lacking in laughs. Even the political undercurrent falls by the wayside towards the end when it wraps things up too neatly and too nicely to work. The subplots about Finch’s wife being fame hungry just pitter out and there is no moral or message to be learned.

In the end, it’s a comedy which isn’t funny and a drama isn’t dramatic meaning that all you have is a series of disappointments. I still like Gervais, I just need someone like a Stephen merchant to reign him in.

Rating: C+

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