Bastille Day

Idris Elba in Bastille Day

Maybe pickings are richer in the EU. Heaven forfend! Maybe it’s having an accomplice who is willing to walk naked down the steps of the Sacre Coeur church in Montmartre. Who know? But while all heads are turned towards the young woman sans vehetments, a young American pickpocket, Michael Mason (played by Richard Madden), adroitly relieves the ogling onlookers of their wallets, cash and passports.

This opening sequence sets the tone and tempo for the adrenalin-fuelled thrill ride that is Bastille Day (released nationwide Friday 22 April, 2016).

Mason is an American pickpocket living in Paris whose light-fingered tricks score more than he bargains for and he finds himself caught between corrupt officials, terrorist bomb plots, and the CIA.  The reason: one of the bags he lifted contained more than just a wallet. Ooops!

Sean Briar (Idris Elba), the field agent on the case, realises that Mason is an unwitting participant and way out of his depth but also his best hope of uncovering the truth of a large-scale conspiracy.

The premise of the film is a plausible and timely one – an elite special force within the police department plot to place bombs in sensitive areas such as the anti-Islamic National Party (a thinly disguised Front Nationale) so that the blame will fall on the Muslim community.

Characterisation and dialogue are not the film’s strongest points and it is a somewhat formulaic storyline – maverick cop-type and charismatic rogue hit it off while saving the helpless public from high-level corruption. You know the drill, and it does not prevent Bastille Day from entertaining – this is above all a non-stop action thriller, full of exciting car chases, gun battles and the odd exploding teddy bear.

British director James Watkins draws the necessary gruff, lone wolf, world-weariness from Idris Elba as Briar, Richard Madden as Mason adds to the mix as the pick-pocket, while French/Canadian newcomer Charlotte Le Bon deserves much more than the eye candy role as she convinces in her all too brief screen time.

The tension is maintained throughout and good use is made of the movie’s Paris locations, but given the current sensitivity post-Bataclan, this does feel an odd film to release now. If you like action films, you’ll probably enjoy this romp but if you think a little deeper expect to leave the cinema feeling slightly empty.

Bastille Day is in cinemas nationwide from April 22 2016.