Men in Black: International

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

Men in Black: International
dir F Gary Gray
scr Matt Holloway, Art Marcum
prd Walter F Parkes, Laurie MacDonald
with Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, Kumail Nanjiani, Rafe Spall, Rebecca Ferguson, Kayvan Novak, Laurent Bourgeois, Larry Bourgeois, Spencer Wilding, Stephen Wight
release US/UK 14.Jun.19
19/US Sony 1h54

neeson thompson nanjiani
See also:
Men in Black II (2002) Men in Black 3 (2012)

thompson and hemsworth
Long gaps between films allow the producers to reboot the franchise for this fourth episode. With Danny Elfman's theme tune as the principal glue, this comedy sci-fi action romp has an oddly thin plot. Director F Gary Gray had no previous experience in action-comedy, so the humour feels sharp but sparse, while the action is both over-violent and somewhat incoherent. Still, there's some fun to be had.
After encountering an unexplained creature as a child, Molly (Tessa Thompson) grows up in Brooklyn obsessed with discovering who the alien-containing Men in Black are, eventually discovering their headquarters, where boss Agent O (Emma Thompson) gives her a shot. Her first assignment is to figure out what's going on in the London office, reporting to Agent High T (Neeson) and working with Agent H (Hemsworth) to protect a galactic VIP (Novak). Of course, things take a turn, leading to chaos in Marrakech and a visit to a three-armed arms dealer (Ferguson) in Italy.
One of the enjoyable aspects of these movies is the freewheeling way the stories evolve, although this one feels like it was made up as it was filmed, with continually dropped threads and sudden twists. Each scene is infused with digital whizzery of a generally high standard, although most visual gags are rather limp (Gray seems more intrigued by the shiny big guns). Where things come together is in the barbed chemistry between the characters, like H's rivalry with Agent C (Spall).

As usual, Hemsworth undercuts his swaggering machismo with impeccable comic timing, playing scenes perfectly with a range of foils. He and Thompson rekindle their Thor-Valkyrie banter without skipping a beat, while Thompson brings a superbly steely eagerness to the role. Neeson and Spall provide some cool edges of their own, Emma Thompson packs her few scenes with comedy gold, and Ferguson has a ball in her lively but strangely thankless role. Meanwhile, Nanjiani (voicing a pawn that pledges loyalty to Molly) very nearly steals the show.

It's part of the problem that a tiny, essentially irrelevant character becomes the audience's main point of entry. Pawny feels like an afterthought in the plot who has been given added screen time to liven things up. The result is an adventure that's consistently amusing even as it never quite generates enough spark to make it memorable. If audiences click in to its escapist vibe, that might be enough to make us look forward to more.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 14.Jun.19

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© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall