More noise than signal


This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site,

Stormbreaker, eh? Let’s see. From the director of White Noise and, er, a few Lovejoy episodes, adapting Anthony Horowitz’s kiddy oriented secret agent hokum. And a bit part for Jimmy Carr. This doth not bode well. What’s this? The most entertaining film seen thus far this summer? Oh. I’ll get the sauce for this hat I now have to eat.

Of course, you’ll have to have a certain disposition for the above to hold true, with the first five minutes being as good a test bed as any. Secret agent Ian Rider (Ewan McGregor) lobs a good ol’ fashioned red stick of dynamite, which probably has ACME stamped on the side of it, over his shoulder, blowing up a warehouse while making a getaway on a motorbike. This brief chase scene culminates in a nameless goon blowing up a Punch ‘n’ Judy stand with an RPG, and Rider being killed to bits by a hitman dangling upside down from a helicopter. This, I trust you do not need me to point out, is all rather silly, and for the most part Stormbreaker continues in this vein.

The death of his Uncle comes as something of a blow to the already orphaned Alex Rider (Alex Pettyfer), although rather than shrink into the depths of despair he decides to beat up some people in a scrapyard with a rope, and the help of Donnie Yen’s fight choreography. Well, perhaps not quite as disjointedly as that, as he’s following a path that leads to Alex discovering the truth behind his uncle’s death, and a job offer from the head of MI6, Alan Blunt (Bill Nighy), having been surreptitiously groomed for the role by Rider Snr’s tutelage.

Seems that the plan by extravagantly dressed, extravagantly tanned computer company billionaire Darrius Sayle (Mickey Rourke, for the love of God why Mickey Rourke) to provide every school in the country with a souped-up, pimp-my-CPU titular Stormbreaker computer is suspected by MI6, because suspicion is sort of their job description. Hoping that second time will be a charm, MI6 plant Alex into Sayle’s H.Q. as a computer mag competition winner, allowed a chance to play with the new toy a day before the rest of the country. The feelings of the poor chump Alex is posing as towards this unceremonious prize-stealing remain unexplored, presumably left as a revenge motivation for a sequel.

As befits things of this ilk, nefarious schemes are afoot. Extraordinarily weird schemes that Sayle would get no benefit other than petty vengeance and would be impossible to escape the repercussions of, it must be said. Regardless of his inexplicable scheme and barely more explicable motivations, it is an Evil Plan that Must Be Stopped through Rider’s wits, cunning and a gimmicked Nintendo DS suppled by Q-variant Mr. Smithers (Stephen Fry).

This all sounds very silly indeed, and I haven’t even mentioned Sayle’s henchpersons yet; the be-Chelsea smiled knife throwing Oddjob-alike Mr. Grin (Andy Serkis) and Nadia Vole (Missi Pyle), whose special evil powers appear to be ‘gurning’ and ‘silly accent’. Indeed, the whole affair is extraordinarily silly, more so even than it’s closest equivalent Agent Cody Banks. Just as there’s no way in Hades that Agent Cody Banks ought to have worked but did anyway, there’s no way in Hades that Stormbreaker ought to work, but does regardless.

High art it certainly is not, but it’s also pretty much the only film that’s engaged me on any level since Brick. There’s a real sense of fun throughout, an off-kilter irreverence of the sort that was painfully absent from Oh no! More Pirates!. Not all the way through, sadly. There’s a few moments where it takes on delusions of being serious, which aren’t so much bad as utterly undermined by that which surrounds it and tend to drag as a result.

Still, there’s enough bizarre sideways glancin’ from Bill Nighy and general offbeat shenanigans to make this fun throughout, and tragically it’s a rare day indeed that we say that around here. Cool enough for the kids and downright strange enough for the adults pretending they’re kids to enjoy, there’s really not much wrong with Stormbreaker that’s worth getting upset over.