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Movie review: 'Fast Charlie' hits target as winning thriller

James Verniere, Boston Herald on

Published in Entertainment News

From screenwriter Richard Wenk of “The Equalizer” fame based on the novel “Gun Monkeys” by Victor Gischler, “Fast Charlie” features former James Bond Pierce Brosnan as an amateur chef/gun-toting mob fixer in Biloxi, MS named Charlie Swift. Charlie’s oldest friend and boss Stan Mullen (James Caan in his final role) has become frail and needs Charlie’s protection, especially after a rival gang leader named Beggar (a menacing Gbenga Akinnagbe) decides it’s time for Sam and his crew to go. Beggar and his boys use the local alligators as a sort of organic disposal for their victims.

Charlie is an ex-Marine who lives in a nice home and likes to cook Italian food (he was once stationed in Italy and is thinking about relocating there).

The Italian connection may be a shout out to the entire history of gangster-related movies, including “The Godfather” (1972), which made Caan a star. Beside veterans Brosnan and Caan stands stalwart Australian director Phillip Noyce (“Patriot Games,” “Rabbit-Proof Fence”), whose talent turns “Fast Charlie” into something more than just the next hit-man movie.

Brosnan brings his brand of sly, world-weary, reluctant heroism to the role. The actor was not the greatest James Bond. But he was a very, very good one, and he’s still devilishly handsome and fit enough to make you believe a woman almost half his age, named Marcie Kramer (Morena Baccarin, “Deadpool”), might be interested in the dapper, sliver-haired Charlie. Shades of Norman Bates, Marcie is also a taxidermist.

The action starts with a flash forward to the end when Charlie is caught with his pants literally down. In the film’s actual kick-off a young idiot named Blade (Brennan Keel Cook) accidentally blows his head off. “Fast Charlie,” which moves its action to New Orleans, throws comic-violent mashups at us throughout. The relationship between Charlie and Stan will also evoke one of Caan’s best films, “Thief” (1981), in which Caan played the protective gunman. Along the course of events, Beggar will send the towering Lloyd “The Freak” Mercury (Christopher Matthew Cook, “Renfield”) after Charlie, Stan and Marcie. In one of the film’s best-staged shootouts, Charlie hides in a hotel’s laundry chute to evade the Freak.

At a mere 90 minutes running time, “Fast Charlie” moves along quickly past the body-count action and the (is-it-romance?) banter between Brosnan and Baccarin. At times, the film is as haunted by the spirit of the master of this sort of thing Elmore Leonard (“Get Shorty”). As Deadpool’s lover Vanessa, Baccarin proved that she could handle the comic wordplay and flirtation with considerable dexterity and humor. I don’t expect “Fast Charlie” to evolve into a hit TV series. But with its mix of extreme violence, humor, romance, memorable and colorful criminals and a talented cast, I would put it on my list of things to watch, especially if the action shifts to, say, Tuscany.

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'FAST CHARLIE'

Grade: B+

MPA rating: Not rated (Contains extreme, graphic violence, gruesome images and profanity.)

Running time: 1:30

How to watch: On VOD

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