Vaughn Stein’s first feature length stint in the directorial hot-seat pitches him with an excellent cast of Margot Robbie, Simon Pegg, Mike Myers and Dexter Fletcher in this neon-drenched take on British film-noir. Stein has impressed as assistant director or second unit director in diverse projects such as Harry Potter, Beauty and the Beast, The Danish Girl and Dad’s Army. This logical yet difficult step up has created a movie full of lovely dazzling imagery but lacking in almost everything else.
Bill (Pegg), a cancer ridden, chain smoking, middle aged English teacher has missed his last train home. Directed toward the 24 hour End of the Line café by helpful janitor Clinton (Myers), he gains the attention of eccentric death-obsessed waitress Annie, who advises him on the futility of ignoring his impending doom and starts making lists of best suicide ideas. Meanwhile on the streets outside, two gangsters; Vince and Alfred, have just received notice from the notorious Mr Franklin, a mysterious super crime boss, that he wishes to employ their services. They are soon sucked down the rabbit hole toward a job which becomes more perplexing and multifaceted every step they take.
If you squeeze your eyes tight enough and allow for some historic improvisation, you can just about see why Margot Robbie agreed to produce and act in this. Her character, Annie, leads an enigmatic double life and diffuses a consistently cool buoyancy, playing everyone off against each other in her multi-layered strategies. She is always in control. The problem is in the execution. The script meanders far too often, allowing Annie to jabber away somewhere betwixt soliloquy and lecture. Pegg doesn’t help; his ability to play any role other than Simon Pegg becoming achingly more obvious as time and major roles pass. Dexter Fletcher and Max Irons as Vince and Alfred respectively are handed a bastard son of Tarantino/Ritchie script, inheriting the worse from both parents; Vince especially given such a stereotype that all Cockney gangsters should start a twitter campaign against him. Although it’s nice to see Myers back on screen, he seems to have dusted off his Austin Powers-era Fat Bastard make-up as he too battles against predictable greyscale character nuances.
Terminal’s major flaw however is that for all its monologuing and poor-man’s Tarantino vocal beats, it sets itself up for some potentially interesting final third narrative coalescing, yet utterly fails to deliver. Any twists are either painstakingly obvious or so ludicrous that it undoes any glimmer of conceivable enjoyment, the character links tenuous at best.
At least Terminal looks great; the noir Neon positioning would give Nicolas Winding Refn or Gaspar Noé a run for their money. Yet for every stunningly garish blue vignette, there’s an even brassier stunted delivery. Terminal falls way short of the sum of its parts and will have Robbie fans scratching their heads in disbelief.
Dir: Vaughn Stein
Scr: Vaughn Stein
Cast: Margot Robbie, Simon Pegg, Dexter Fletcher, Mike Myers, Max Irons
Prd: Tom Ackerley, David Barron, Arianne Fraser, Margot Robbie
DOP: Christopher Ross
Music: Anthony Clarke, Rupert Gregson-Williams
Run Time: 95 minutes