Special Correspondents FILM REVIEW
Release: Out Now
Director: Ricky Gervais
Starring: Ricky Gervais, Eric Bana, Vera Farminga, America Ferrera, Raul Castillo, Kelly Macdonald.
Remaking French films seems to be all the rage right now. Earlier this month it was announced that Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart are going to star in the American version of Untouchable, and here Ricky Gervais gives us his take on Frédéric Auburtin’s Special Correspondents for Netflix.
Back in the role of writer, producer and director, Gervais stars as Ian Finch, a meek radio technician who works alongside the self-centred radio journalist Frank Bonneville, played by Eric Bana, in the heart of New York. Bana is the typical unconventional journalist who will do anything to get a story – the film even opens with him impersonating a police officer to get into a crime scene – but now his boss is looking for any reason to fire him. So when an uprising takes place in Ecuador this gives Bonneville the perfect opportunity to redeem himself. Of course, he wasn’t expecting that Finch was going to accidentally throw away their passports and plane tickets.
After they realise the mistake Bonneville and Finch decide, rather than own up to their mistake, they should fake their entire trip and enlist the help of dim-witted restaurant owners America Ferrera and Raul Castillo to keep them hidden. At first the falsified reports are a hit, since no one realises that they are actually based in the building across the road, and even when they’re suddenly asked for a report while out for a walk they’re able to use their creativity to convince everyone that they’re in Ecuador. Things start to escalate, though, when the pair create a mastermind behind the uprising and fake their own kidnapping.
Like many of Ricky Gervais’s creations over the years his character is the underdog: his wife despises him, he collects Marvel action figures and he’s underappreciated at work. We’ve seen many times before that he’s capable of making us love his characters despite their flaws, so it is a shame that his character in Special Correspondents isn’t developed enough to make us care about him. While we would normally be able to rally behind him the chance never really materialises in this film, and even Bana’s character doesn’t get much chance to shine. The pair go from one scheme to another, but there just isn’t enough happening to make their plight interesting enough to care about what happens.
That’s not to say that Special Correspondents is a disaster, because it isn’t. There are plenty of amusing moments, such as the aforementioned ordeal of reporting on the uprising while out on the streets of New York. The highlight of the film, though, is Finch’s wife played by Vera Farminga. Determined to use her husband’s kidnapping to her advantage, the film see’s Farminga do everything in her power to get the American public to sympathise with her and uses that to kick-start her music career. It’s a crude way for her character to use her new-found fame, but it is certainly very funny.
Given the film’s origins, Gervais cannot really be blamed for the story’s thin narrative. Some remakes do work well, and the premise behind Auburtin’s film seemed perfect for Gervais’ usual style of comedy, so it’s a shame that it isn’t able to do more than generate a few laughs. But while the film is not one of Gervais’ best, it is certainly enjoyable and is worth a watch if you’ve already got a Netflix account.
Written by Roxy Simons