Do not look at the running time. Cooler heads will prevail but there is something deep within a person which will combust in realising 97 Minutes, the latest Jonathan Rhys Meyers-led action slop, is not, as its title would promise, an hour and thirty-seven minutes. Disgraceful. So too is the appearance of Alec Baldwin, who finds he has been relegated to the Supercell and straight-to-video arena. This is no surprise. He was headed that way after appearing in the likes of Pixie and Motherless Brooklyn and his spotty filmography has always been an eyebrow-raiser. This is his The Cat in the Hat phase all over again, just with less charm and more collaboration with the man who brought us Iron Sky. At least that has Udo Keir.
What does 97 Minutes have then? A whole lot of nothing. Meyers and Baldwin bothering one another over a radio on a tense flight already taken over, it would seem, in the first few minutes. Central Intelligence units settling into a completely sparse and knowingly green-screened setting are one of many immersion-breaking moments. It is not the backdrop which breaks it though but the limited foregrounds, and the sparse feeling which is carried through it all. Not even Baldwin, the exposition machine whose first page of dialogue is merely questions, makes little sense. For a director of some such organisation, he is not clued up on what is going on, where the flight is going or, it would seem, what a plane is.
Transmitting packets and all this technical jargon is hard to swallow when the tech expert’s monitor is on a diagonal angle. Flying is tense enough without people mucking about and beating terrorists with shoes and carts. Still, the heroism of the flight team is hard to swallow when one of them is seemingly despatched from the mortal plain with a tea trolley. Naturally, Baldwin disappears halfway through, his days on set for high prices are not enough to cover the third act, although his team appear to do very little. There is a sense of onboard rebellion keeping things afloat as open-mouthed passengers watch on in horror as Meyers does all the unconvincing work. Vuorensola is drafted in to work on this one, rather than picked from the many littering names of the straight-to-video dramas.
With his name attached to it, there is a limited, but notable, increase in expectation. His style is nowhere, really, to be found. He is the man who managed Iron Sky and for all the fun and frequent B-Movie pastiche which the cast is reliant on there, it is a shame to see 97 Minutes is a straight-shooting, high-flying piece of non-specific action. Meyers is as unconvincing as expected for his latter-day roles but the eventual flashback to tie him to Baldwin is repugnant. Hopeless stuff which tries to push through a plot twist but, by this time, the script has chewed away at the scenery, the engines are on the brink and everyone around those two names which used to hold weight on the big screen, are gutless. It would have been different with Mark Wahlberg on board, as the nutcase workout man once claimed.