Within about fifteen seconds you can tell exactly what sort of movie Stratton is going to be, as we’re instantly subject to a generic score, contrived one liners and a supposedly-pertinent-yet-entirely-absurd narrative. Within moments it’s clear that this Simon West action thriller carries few surprises, and unfortunately, any such hunch is proved right, for this film takes no risks, presenting absolutely nothing you haven’t seen before.
Dominic Cooper plays the aforementioned, eponymous protagonist – a Special Boat Service commando, who fronts a covert team vying to retrieve a biochemical substance, which could be mightily destructive if falling into the wrong hands. Though on this mission he watches on as his partner Marty (Tyler Hoechlin) is murdered, and he struggles to come to terms with his death, seeking solace in the form of father-figure Ross (some bloke who lives on a boat and tells naughty riddles), played by Derek Jacobi. Determined to ensure that Marty’s death wasn’t in vain, and prevent the potential death of thousands more – he collaborates closely with MI5 to find the terrorist in possession of the substance, taking his instructions from commander-in-chief Sumner (Connie Nielson). Though as he gets embroiled in this murky set of affairs, Stratton realises he can’t trust anyone – listening only to his own instant as he strives tirelessly to track down this terrorist cell, before it’s too late.
To be an action thriller in the ilk of that of which was described in this review’s introduction, is perfectly acceptable if complete with a big fat dollop of self-awareness. To abide stringently by formula, and to be cliched can actually be somewhat comforting if executed in the right manner, particularly in this genre. And yet Stratton is a film that takes itself far too seriously. The Hitman’s Bodyguard also had a generic soundtrack, contrived one-liners and big, loud explosions that distracted us from the lack of character development – yet it was affectionately familiar and not afraid to ridicule itself. With Stratton, the only ridicule is coming from the viewer.
It is hard to imagine that Nielsen isn’t in on the joke though. I mean, her accent in this movie is so bad, she would’ve sounded more English had she just spoken in Danish. The depiction of London is so predictable too, with such a forced means of utilising the city as a narrative device. Whether it be archetypal, swooping shots of the London skyline that features in countless movies a year, or the fact we see a red double decker bus used in one of the film’s most pivotal chase scenes. It’s just a surprise we don’t see the aforementioned vehicle drive into the Thames only to be pulled our by the Queen herself.
Stratton doesn’t work for many reasons, and while Cooper is a talented actor, he struggles here to pull off the action hero protagonist. If this were a James Bond audition it’s one he has sadly failed in – though hard to know whether that’s a criticism of the actor himself, of just the awful screenplay he’s working with. Perhaps that had been some scope to see the character explored further in future sequels, but after this, let’s say, underwhelming endeavour, it’s rather unlikely we’ll be seeing anymore of Stratton ever again.
Stratton is released on September 1st.