When a top-secret weapon falls into mercenary hands, a wild card CIA agent joins forces with three international agents on a lethal mission to retrieve it, while staying a step ahead of a mysterious woman who’s tracking their every move. (from IMDB)
When you think of the action/spy genre, franchises like James Bond, Jason Bourne and Mission: Impossible probably come to mind first and foremost. While one could argue that few film entries can compete with those brands, there really seems to be a lack of female-fronted series. Angelina Jolie threw her name into the ring with 2010’s Salt, and there have been some others that haven’t been quite as high profile, but none of them have really stuck or were able to get a series of movies off the ground. The latest attempt to start something fresh is The 355, a star-studded action film that unites some serious talent from a varied cultural background to kick the pants off anyone bold enough to go up against them. Uniting celebrated actresses like Jessica Chastain, Diane Kruger, Lupita Nyong’o, Bingbing Fan, and Penélope Cruz, The 355 seems like it just can’t lose. Sadly, the movie proves, yet again, that assembling an impressive cast isn’t enough to guarantee success.
Admittedly, The 355 is not a total loss. The strong cast, exotic locations, and action-heavy sequences keep the film entertaining. It’s really in the script and direction in which the film falters. The aforementioned spy franchises have proven that kick-butt heroines are more than possible, with Ana de Armas as Paloma in No Time To Die and Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa in Mission: Impossible; these are both characters who could totally pull off their own spin-off series, given the right scripts. It’s definitely not that this cast isn’t up to the task. One disgruntled user review on IMDb complained that the women in this film are past their prime and much too old for roles like this, but I wouldn’t say that’s fair. The ladies seem to hold their own just fine. The biggest problem with The 355 is in its execution. From the relentless chasing after an underwhelming MacGuffin for the entire film to some cheesy dialog and a lack of standout male characters, the film falls short. Most of the male characters are reduced to cliched caricatures, which actually cheapens the overall feel of the movie. You’d think that strong male characters could only illustrate just how tough these ladies really are, but despite some good actors being cast here, their characters are just, well… lame. In fact, unfortunately, “cliche” is the overall feel this movie has. I was looking forward to it since its first trailer, but it just doesn’t live up to its potential.
The biggest problem The 355 has is its lack of freshness and originality. It tries, but flounders. It even makes an attempt at a twist or two in the plot, but it doesn’t really work and feels forced and contrived. It’s one of those stories where what a character does doesn’t seem to make much sense for the character and only really seems to happen because it’d be added drama and tension. Sadly, it doesn’t work because it doesn’t feel like a natural turn for the character. Then the actor playing the character gives such a cocky and smug performance that it just makes it all that much worse. In the end, it makes the film feel weaker. The other problem is in how rushed the story feels at times. For a 2-hour movie, you’d think it wouldn’t be the case, but many of the characters aren’t given much depth or setup, so it’s tough to get involved in their stories. However, one of the most shocking and dramatic scenes in the entire film still manages to land an emotional gut-punch–to the film’s credit. Lupita Nyong’o and Penélope Cruz probably have the more rounded and relatable characters in the movie, and they both bring some heart to the story, but it isn’t quite enough to elevate the entire film.
I’m a fan of some of Jessica Chastain’s work, and I especially loved her characters in movies like Interstellar and The Martian. However, here, it may be a slight stretch to have her as an action hero. I can’t say if a better script or direction would have helped, but the way her character, Mace, is used here isn’t as effective. I also loved Diane Kruger in the National Treasure movies and in Unknown, but she’s a little tougher to warm up to as the more aggressive and prickly Marie in The 355. It’s also poorly illustrated as to exactly where her allegiance lies and why she does some of the things she does.
The content for The 355 is decidedly PG-13, but the violence pushes the envelope at times. Several characters get gunned down in cold blood and/or execution style, with it just barely NOT being shown on screen. Some of the action has bloody results, but it’s usually in the form of scratches and scrapes. At least two instances where gunshot wounds through clothing should be bloodier, they’re shown more so as just dark grey circles on the victim’s clothing. It seems as if the filmmakers went to great lengths to not show graphic violence, but pull back just before it would be. Language is surprisingly infrequent, but Chastain uses the “F” word once in the movie, and there’s a mix of the usual cuss words, like the “S” word, “S.O.B,” and some blasphemy. There are also a few instances where some mild language is written out in foreign language-to-English subtitles. Overall, though, I was surprised how little language was in the movie (especially after seeing a more youth-oriented movie like Uncharted having pretty frequent profanity). Lastly, there’s one scene of suggested sex as Chastain unbuttons her shirt, revealing a bra underneath and keeps the shirt on as a man pulls her onto a bed as they kiss. The scene ends there though. (We later see flashbacks of the two lying in bed afterwards with no shirts on, but no explicit nudity is seen.) There’s also an out-of-nowhere diss towards God when Lupita’s Khadijah says “God is great” in a foreign language to Chastain’s character, Mace, and as Khadijah walks away, Mace says “hasn’t been my experience with him.” (Boooo!)
When all is said and done, The 355 is at best an average action thriller, and at worst a spy genre retread that lacks imagination and is destined to be found in a Walmart bargain bin. A great cast makes this one watchable for fans of the actors or the genre, but otherwise, The 355 is a decent concept that is squandered by poor execution.
– John DiBiase (reviewed: 2/23/22)
iTunes / Digital Copy Bonus Features Review
The 355 is now available via digital retailers and on Blu-Ray and DVD. Along with the feature film, the iTunes digital copy of The 355 includes the following extras:Deleted Scenes (6:21) – There are only two deleted scenes. The first makes up the bulk of them and shows Luis and Graciela in Luis’s hotel room. She makes him remove his shirt to clean a wound on his side (which we kind of see). She finds his gun and they argue over what he’d do with the package they’re trying to retrieve. The last bit shows Khadijah getting on a radio and disguising her voice, digitally, as the bad guys’ voice to divert them.
Chasing Through Paris (4:59) – The were given permission to shoot through some of historic areas of the city of Paris. They talk about the joys and challenges of shooting on location and give us some great behind-the-scenes footage of the motorcycle chase in Paris. (2 “a” words)
Action That Hurts (5:28) – They cover shooting at the fish market in London England, and trying to make the stunts look real and violent. Jessica talks about trying to do as many stunts herself as possible and how her past history as a ballerina helped her with fight scene choreography. (1 “a” word)
Reconstructing Marrakesh (5:36) – They had wanted to go to Morocco to shoot but couldn’t, so they built a market from scratch on a studio backlot in 2019! It’s pretty impressive. (1 “a” word)
Chaos at the City of Dreams (3:52) – This segment covers the violent, action-packed finale. We see lots of behind-the-scenes footage of the girls crashing the hotel room and filming their fights.
– John DiBiase, (reviewed: 2/23/22)
Parental Guide: Content Summary
Sex/Nudity: Nick and Mace flirt, with Nick suggesting there should be more to their relationship. Mace then walks over to the bed and suggestively unbuttons her shirt. We briefly see some of her bra underneath. She and Nick kiss passionately and he lays down on her on the bed. The scene ends there; We see a flashback of Nick and Mace topless in bed, but we only see her shoulders as she lies on his chest; Graciela’s shirt shows some cleavage; The girls share stories of their “first time” as agents and Khadijah talks about having to retrieve something from a man’s butt.
Vulgarity/Language: 1 “F” word, 3 “S” words (and 1 mouthed “S” word, 1 “S” word in German), 1 “g*dd*mn,” 2 “h*ll” (and 1 in subtitles); 1 “*ssh*le,” 2 “d*mn,” 1 “p*ss,” 1 “Oh my G-d” (and 1 in subtitles), 2 “G-d,” 2 “S.O.B” in subtitles, an end credits song says “b*lls”; Marie gives Mace “the finger.”
Alcohol/Drugs: The girls toast each other with beers; Marie is drinking alcohol in a glass and offers it to Mace who refuses at first but then drinks some; A man drinks alcohol; A man and a woman both have drinks.
Blood/Gore: We see a dark spot on a man’s shirt after he’s shot; We see some blood on the floor under dead bodies after a room was raided and shot up; A man has some blood on him after being shot. There’s some blood on Graciela’s clothes from this; Marie has some blood on her nose during her fight with Mace; We see a slightly bloody abrasion on a man’s cheek; The girls tie a man to a chair for interrogation. Marie shoots him in the leg and we see some blood on his pants; Marie and Mace show some cleavage in dresses they wear; A man Mace fights has a very bloody head; Mace has some blood on her cleavage from her face after a fight; Mace has a very bloody cut on her cheek; A man has blood on his eyebrow after being hit in the face; Mace’s face is bruised with a cut on her cheek that has tape on it; A man has bloody scrapes on his face; A woman is shot in the shoulder and there’s a little blood; A man has a bloody face during a fight; A man has some blood on his shirt after being shot.
Violence: A cargo plane explodes in the sky in the distance; A man is shot in head off screen; Another man is shot in shoulder; More characters are hit with machine gun fire; Mace is shown sparring with another agent at the gym; Marie spills hot coffee and a tray of cups on Mace and steals a bag and runs through a crowd. Marie throws people to the ground and knocks over a motorcycle. Marie steals the bike to get away from Mace who is running after her. Mace shoots out a light that falls to the ground in a market, causing Marie to crash her bike. She then falls down subway stairs and knocks over more people as she runs. Mace pushes over a man as she runs after Marie. Meanwhile, Nick chases Luis through traffic. Luis falls and knocks over Nick. Marie punches Mace, draws a knife and hits her in the face; Nick tackles Luis and punches him. The two fight, kicking and punching each other; Mace shoots at Marie; Marie hits a man on the back with a gun; Mace tackles Marie and they fight and struggle; A man shoots a man and another man, killing them; A gunman fights a man and shoots him on the ground, killing him; Marie crashes a fork lift through boxes and shoots at a man who is also shooting at her; Mace kicks Marie down a flight of stairs; Mace jumps some distance onto to a large metal shipping container and yells in pain. A man continues to shoot at them; Some men corner a guy in a market and stab him multiple times (Not graphic); Khadijah and Mace fight off a few guys; Marie shoots a man; Another man is shot; Mace shoots a man on a roof; Marie shoots another man; A woman beats up a man in a dark room and shoots him off screen; We see news footage showing planes crashing and exploding; In a dark room, we see quick flashes of light as guns fire and see quick flashes of characters as they’re fighting; Mace knocks a guy out with butt of gun; The girls tie a man to a chair for questioning. Marie shoots him in the leg and we see some blood on his pants; Mace fights a man. He hits her and throws her head into a table. She strangles him with his tie and hits him in the face; An explosion throws some men back; Mace continues to fight the man and slams the door on his head; Mace bites a man’s lip and pulls a gun on him; A man kicks out another man’s knee and hit him in the face twice; Men with guns bust through windows and grab the women; A man shoots another man in the head off screen; We see some monitors that display several captives on each monitor. Two of the victims are shot and killed in a very intense scene (No blood is shown); A woman fights multiple men and beats them with a lamp stand. She then shoots at them; An explosion goes off blowing out windows and knocking people over; Mace falls over the side of a building and grabs a ledge; Khadijah and Marie shoot up a room full of men. Several guys are shown being shot and killed at close range with pistols; A man is shot in the back; Marie kicks a flashbang back through a door and it goes off, knocking out some guys; We see more shooting; A man fights with Mace; More guys are shown getting shot; A woman is shot in the shoulder; A woman shoots a man, saving another woman; A man shoots another man many times off screen, killing him; We find out a man drank something with poison in it.