"You should have stayed dead"

Brian Bosworth is still making films.

This time, he's CIA agent Alec Carville, who gets captured in the Soviet Union just before the fall of communism. He is drugged up for eleven years before he manages an escape. Then he falls into the hands of an old KGB officer who is now a smuggler. He tells Alec that he has his old KGB girlfriend and that he must do an operation for him to see her alive again.

The operation involves retrieving from a bank this painting that is being purchased by a rich Texan by the name of Felix Grady. He is accompanied by two Russian thugs who appear at first to be the comedy relief until Grady shows up with his entourage, gunfire ensues, and the whole thing turns into High Noon meets Dog Day Afternoon meets Moscow on the Hudson (although the bank is in Boston, so maybe that's Moscow on the Charles).

From there, it's your standard action/spy film playing out, with questionable motives and predictable sympathies and stupidity all around.

From the first minute we hear Brian Bosworth speak, I start dreading any more. It's not that he's bad - it's the script, plying us with exposition right off the bat. But, as it turns out, you don't even really have to listen. The film would have been better without that information anyway.

I was smiling while Bosworth was vegetative. Too bad it doesn't last as he's only pretending so he can escape. We miss the full delight of those eleven years, but I'll have to forgive the film, as their intended audience might not relate - or might relate too much. The bit where he puts the needle into the doctor's eye is too obviously fake.

The film is trying to be historically informed, which is almost required for any kind of spy film these days. They start off all right, but then drop it as a theme entirely - as if the concept were just an item on the writer's checklist that was marked off as soon as possible. In fact, this checklist approach stretches to filling out the whole formula of the film - the mystery of the painting ties back to a loose plot point at the beginning of the film, but ultimately these facts are practically irrelevant and it's plain as day.

I never really get why this guy is so useful for this job. It's way too convenient. He pops out of silence and there just happens to be this perfect scenario waiting for him. It's actually anticlimactic - he could be dealing with the consequences of waking up after eleven years, but instead - ho hum - he has to go off and be a tough guy.

The movie suffers from the worst sort of character conversation - where, instead of hiring two actors (or more), they combine characters into one (note that Bosworth also plays the man his character imitates). The movie is about conflict, and where a few characters - members of the local police and the feds - might actually find a way to get along, these folk are summarized by two stereotyped individuals who are at loggerheads the whole time. Likewise, when the CIA enters the picture, we see the same sort of thing.

The strange thing is that Bosworth does not actually completely suck. Sure there are times when the "real" Felix Grady seems more imitation than the fake one, but he's certainly improved since his first film, Stone Cold. I imagine it's probably hard not to pick up something after ten years of bad action flicks. He's picked up some shades of emotion, and approaches decent with the several accents his character has to muddle through. At this pace, you can watch for his breakthrough role somewhere around 2009.

The Operative is not good, it's not even quite mediocre, but it's at least watchable.

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