The Courier is a tired thriller, filled with tired actors playing tired characters, wrapped up in a tired story. There is exactly one scene in the movie where anyone looks like they're making an effort, and it's the only scene in the movie that's memorable or interesting. Although all of the top-billed cast and crew are veterans, the film is one of those worst-case scenarios where everyone involved seems to have signed on hoping to make a quick buck without thinking or trying too hard, and all of that apathy and malaise is plainly visible on the screen.
First up is Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who strikes me as a great choice for a DTV action movie; he's got a distinctly different persona than JCVD, Seagal, Kilmer, Willis, or whoever else is slumming it in Buglaria, and he's certainly charismatic and engaging enough to carry something like this (The Losers being a perfect example in principle and a poor example in execution). Morgan's character is known only as "The Courier," and like his competition, The Transporter, he moves things that need to be moved for money, doesn't ask questions, and has a moral or personal code he doesn't like breaking.
As with any character in a movie who has a personal code that they don't like breaking, The Courier is forced to break his code when a new client (Til Schweiger) bursts into his office with a gun and demands The Courier deliver a briefcase. For some reason, The Courier's friend Stitch (Mark Margolis) insists that The Courier take along Anna (Josie Ho), a former car thief who can pilot an airplane. Her character has no internal motivation to be there (she spends most of her time telling The Courier she shouldn't be doing all of the things he makes her do) but she tags along anyway, so The Courier has someone to sleep with. As The Courier tries to unravel the mystery of who Til Schweiger's character is, people begin trying to kill him -- specifically, the Capos (Miguel Ferrer and Lili Taylor), a married assassin couple with a predilection for torture.
The packaging for the film proclaims the film is by "Academy Award-winning director Hany Abu-Assad," which is a lie; Abu-Assad's film Paradise Now was nominated for an Oscar but did not win, and although you could argue that he deserves the credit, technically his film was nominated, not Abu-Assad himself. His action direction is fairly lazy and simplistic; the one and only fight scene that really goes on long enough to be considered a fight scene is marred by quick-cutting and overly cramped close-ups. Other sequences, like the supposedly exciting prologue, are ruined by the use of some of the worst, least convincing green-screen I've ever seen. Abu-Assad, Morgan, Ferrer, and Taylor all do their best work in a seriously brutal torture sequence, but it only makes up five of the movie's 97 minutes.
Finally, there's Mickey Rourke, playing the film's villain. Some of you may have seen the trailer, which includes glimpses of Rourke in costume. I won't repeat the information here, but seeing it kind of ruins his character's reveal, which is both spectacularly dopey (the name) and endearingly silly. Sadly, that little spike in entertainment value doesn't last long, as the script dives into pretty terrible rip-off territory. I can't say what movie The Courier ultimately mimics, because that would also spoil the movie, but it's safe to say writers Pete Dris and Brannon Coombs's script doesn't stand alongside one of the most popular and acclaimed thrillers of the '90s. Rourke's participation in the rest of the film is entirely vocal, with a stand-in (Mark Kubr) playing his character from the neck down, sitting in the darkened office of an abandoned warehouse for the film's first hour, as if he were Dr. Claw's long-lost brother.
The Courier arrives with "big head" artwork showcasing the movie's name stars and highlighting a moody tone. The exact same artwork also appears on a cardboard slipcover that slides over the eco-friendly Vortex case (the kind that uses less plastic), and there is no insert.
The Video and Audio
The fingerprints of a low-budget production are all over The Courier's 2.35:1 1080p AVC presentation. Contrast varies slightly from shot to shot, usually coming up weak or flat. The weaker and flatter the contrast, the softer and murkier the image looks. Banding/posterization is visible from time to time, haunting the background of a few scenes, and some of the source footage appears to be interlaced, adding an ugly, distracting blur. The film's color palette lends itself to the opposite of eye-popping and vivid images, but the drab, drained look is accurately captured by the transfer.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is basically the same story. Although music and some of the sound effects are spread out nicely across the channels, it's still low-budget sound equipment capturing limited audio on sparse sets. When Morgan gets mad and flips a desk, what you hear is the high-def echo of a dusty warehouse. Much of Mickey Rourke's dialogue is clearly ADRed, and gunshots have that cheap flimsiness to them that comes with direct-to-video action movies. Of all the elements, music sounds the best, but there's only so much to spread around. A Dolby Digital 2.0 track and English subtitles are also included.
A making of featurette (22:33) contains the usual round of interviews, B-roll, and lots of clips from the finished film, which look better than the feature presentation (if drifting past equilibrium to become overly dark). I am also flabbergasted to note that this extra credits Lili Taylor as "Libby Turner." I guess you can't have everything, even with 25 years of experience. The only other extra is a reel of deleted/extended scenes (17:54). Frankly, calling some of these "extended scenes" is a bith of a stretch, because some of this appears to be uncut takes of footage that never would've been shown in full, like close ups of all the material pinned to a bulletin board.
Trailers for Tai Chi 0, Interview With a Hitman, and The Viral Factor play before the main menu. An original trailer for The Courier is also included.
In case the cruddiness of the feature film wasn't enough to convince viewers to stay away, The Courier throws in weak PQ and an underwhelming collection of bonus features to boot. Skip it.
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