Although not among the first films to employ the out-of-sequence narrative; “Citizen Kane,” “The Godfather, Part II" (TGPII), “Pulp Fiction,” and “The Usual Suspects” are four of the highest-profile movies most cinephiles associate with this tricky, volatile, easy-to-mess-up storytelling device.
In their new spy thriller “Agent Game,” director Grant S. Johnson (“Frat Star,” “Nighthawks”) and his screenwriters Tyler W. Konney and Mike Langer hopscotch from present day to three weeks ago, to five weeks ago, and finally to two weeks ago—well over 50 times—with only a minor overlapping of characters.
Disorienting on Purpose?Perhaps purposely, the filmmakers wanted “Agent Game” to be disorienting, as it underscores the often double and triple motives of spy agencies and their operatives, particularly those messing about without official U.S. government approval.
While he’s only on-screen for less than 20 or so minutes, Olsen (Mel Gibson) is the center of the universe in the film that all of the remaining players revolve around. Working as a higher-up (but not top) official for an unnamed U.S. intelligence agency, Olsen is a true chess master and calculating people reader.
11 Herbs and SpicesThe best segment of the film features Olsen interviewing Miller (Katie Cassidy, daughter of the late David Cassidy), Kavinsky (Adan Canto) and Reese (Rhys Coiro), a scruffy, wisecracking type who could have easily been a member of the “A-Team.” He also delivers some of the funniest lines of dialogue, including guarding the secrets to the original “11 herbs and spices” Kentucky Fried Chicken recipe and how his mental health began deteriorating after serving duty in multiple countries ending in “-stan.”
This trio is extremely talented in their own ways but all come with flaws which the glad-handing Olsen readily points out. Being interviewed in a generic, nondescript Washington office, all of them have bottomed-out to some degree or another and each is semi-to-heavily desperate for redemption, something Olsen senses like a shark sniffing blood in shallow waters.
Opening with the last chronological event, the story then kicks in with the extraction of somebody Olsen really wants silenced but whose identity isn’t revealed until well into the third act. It's the best twist in the entire film.
In a location labeled on-screen as “Black Site, Eastern Europe” are Bill (Jason Isaacs), Harris (Dermot Mulroney), and Vissir (Annie Ilonzeh) who, at various points, attempt to extract sensitive information from the captured Omar (Barkhad Adbi), the supposed leader of the fictional terrorist organization, the “Crescent Democratic Front.”
Maybe Too Smart for Its Own GoodEven under duress, none of the characters ever resort to bellicose tirades, hissy-fits, or over-the-top, extended monologues with an overcooked backing score. They speak and behave like disciplined, highly trained, tight-lipped black operatives. They’ve been groomed to say nothing and to make their enemies give up everything. It is far from the typical, garden-variety shoot-‘em-up, but it might just be too smart for its own good.
Gangs That Can’t Shoot StraightEvidently, the characters here have uber-extended, “Super Fly” magazine clips which hold hundreds of rounds that never need to be replaced. The people firing the weapons also have atrocious aim as a group of close to a dozen well-trained combatants within yards of each other can’t seem to get close to hitting their targets. An untrained person shooting with their eyes closed after a couple of drinks hip-deep in quicksand could net better results.
Depending on your opinion regarding sequels, you’ll either be thrilled or quite disappointed with the ending. Rather than provide some decent level of closure, the filmmakers wrap it up with the assumption that the movie will knock so many people’s socks off that the studio will have no choice but to order another.
The good news is there are enough unresolved sub-plots and dangling story threads to warrant a sequel, but if “Agent Game” fails to recoup or exceed its (as of yet unknown) budget (likely $20-$40 million), there won’t be a sequel and we’ll be left with the memory of a pretty good movie which failed to deliver on its promising build up and left us hanging.