'Close': Film Review

Close Still 1 -Publicity- H 2019
Courtesy of Netflix
A routine assignment.

Noomi Rapace plays a tough-as-nails bodyguard assigned to protect a rich young heiress in Vicky Jewson's action thriller.

Few actresses portray badassery as vividly as Noomi Rapace. Achieving international fame with the Swedish trilogy of Girl With the Dragon Tattoo films in which she so memorably played Lisbeth Salander, the talented performer has still not found an equivalent breakout role in American films. That unfortunate streak continues with Vicky Jewson's Netflix thriller in which Rapace plays a character inspired by the real-life British bodyguard Jacquie Davis. Rapace gives the film her all, delivering an intense, physically demanding performance, but Close doesn't get close enough to transcending its action-movie clichés.

The film begins with a typical character-introducing prologue in which we see Sam (Rapace) demonstrating her formidable skills while protecting reporters in a dangerous war zone. That assignment completed, we then get a glimpse into her personal life which seems pretty bereft of human interaction. While cleaning her gun, she listens to a phone message from a young woman, which clearly seems to disturb her. She works out on a treadmill with the maniacal fervor of someone who's really running away from her feelings.

When offered a one-week gig as a bodyguard for a young heiress who needs to be escorted on a trip to Morocco, Sam is less than enthused. "Great, a rich kid with mommy issues," she complains after meeting the spoiled brat Zoe (Sophie Nelisse, too fully embracing her character's stereotypical aspects). But the money is good, $10,000 a week, and Zoe's step-mother (Indira Varma, Exodus: Gods and Kings) demands a female bodyguard because Zoe has a propensity for sleeping with her male ones.  

Shortly after the pair arrive at the family's forbidding mountain compound, there's an attempted kidnapping. They manage to escape, but wind up taking it on the lam in Casablanca (an appropriately exotic locale for such goings-on) after running into crooked cops in cahoots with the bad guys. Cue the predictable series of fights and chases, and the even more predictable plot element of Sam and Zoe bonding emotionally during their grueling experiences. We eventually learn the identity of that mysterious female caller whose messages so rattle Sam, providing the film an unconvincing heartwarming conclusion.

Director/co-screenwriter Jewson (Lady Godiva, Born of War) stages the numerous action sequences effectively, and the profusion of French- and Arabic-speaking bad guys on display are certainly menacing enough. But despite the feminist spin on the genre (the production notes inform us that, of 2,000 bodyguards currently operating in England, only five are women), it's hard to avoid the feeling of having seen it all before. The film runs a tight 94 minutes, but it feels longer because there's nothing in it that we haven't seen innumerable times before.

Still, it's worth catching, if only for Rapace, who infuses her portrayal with an emotional complexity and vulnerability that makes the character's fierce physicality all the more striking. It's probably too much to hope that this talented performer lands another part as instantly iconic as Lisbeth Salander anytime soon, but she deserves stronger starring vehicles than this by-the-numbers effort.

Production companies: Piccadilly Pictures, Westend Films, Whitaker Media, Jewson Films
Distributor: Netflix
Cast: Noomi Rapace, Sophie Nelisse, Inidra Varma, Eoin Macken
Director: Vicky Jewson
Screenwriters: Vicky Jewson, Rupert Whitaker
Producers: Jason Newmark, Vicky Jewson, Rupert Witaker
Executive producers: Braden Aftergood, Dennis Davidson, Janette Day, Christopher Figg, Robert Whitehouse, Norman Merry, Peter Hampden, Maya Ansellem, Sharon Harel, Eve Schoukroun, Robert Jones, Wayne Marc Godfrey, John Gleeson, Roisin Henehan, Oisin O'Neill
Director of photography: Malte Ronsenfeld
Production designer: Luke Hull
Editor: Richard Smither
Composer: Marc Canham
Casting: Priscilla John

94 minutes