The Misfits stars ex-Bond, Pierce Brosnan, Nick Cannon and a handful of other beautiful and starkly diverse cast members as a band of criminals stealing from the rich and undeserving for the greater good. Directed by Die Hard 2 director, Renny Harlin, the film’s trailer shows off high-speed car chases, beautiful people, luxury and shots of the Arabian desert. It ticks a lot of my boxes when looking for pure escapism at the movies. Instead of heady escapism what you get is a plotless and quite frankly ridiculous attempt at a genre of film that at times feels farcical.
Brosnan plays Richard Pace, a thief who gets drawn into an organization that wants to steal gold bars marked for terrorist funding from a private prison of a fictional Middle Eastern country (Yes, you read that correctly, a fictional Middle Eastern country). Heading this organization is “The Prince” played by Rami Jaber and the other Misfits include, Ringo (Nick Cannon) – the bank robber, Violet (Jamie Chung) – the man-hating assassin and Wick (Mike Angelo) – the explosives expert. The characters have little back story, no depth and quite honestly very little dialogue. Brosnan, suave as ever whether he dons a suit or is in Middle Eastern get up riding a camel, carries the entire film. One feels sorry for the actor and I can’t help but think “What was he thinking?”
Jokes are forced and it’s cringy watching Nick Cannon play Eddie Murphy style dress up to infiltrate the prison. It just doesn’t work. While the film hits diversity marks, with African-American, Asian and Arab characters, one feels the lack of depth with tropes like Ringo mumbling gibberish because he can’t pronounce Arabic names. Come on, it’s 2021.
So the film is bad but what makes this film particularly bad is the way it chooses to portray Arabs and the Middle East. We’ve seen the luxe Middle East used as an exotic location many times before, and while there are some stunning desert shots, most of what we can see of the Arab world is so contrived that it seems like a parody.
The ridiculousness ensues with annoying little holes that make no sense, for example a blonde woman pretending to be a labourer in the Middle East, two supposed Arab officials speaking to each other in English, and my favourite, waltzing into a high security, restricted Middle Eastern prison. The most problematic portrayal however, is that of the terrorist funder, whose face we don’t see until the end of the film. Seems like Jaffar from Aladdin was the inspo for this character. He is complete with a black thobe and headgear and a gold topped cane used for beating people to death. This type of evil villain character already feels archaic and adds some kind of orientalist barbarian streak is overkill.
The plethora of slick action comedies that we’ve seen makes it impossible for one to think that this movie is a good example of the genre. It has no plot and is disparaging to Arabs and their culture. If you’ve ever wanted to experience 21st century orientalism here’s your chance.