Movie Crush: A Review of MOMENTUM and an Appreciation of Olga Kurylenko

NOTE: Originally written in 2015 for Queens Free Press. My appreciation for Kurylenko remains unabated; I’ll sit through The Bay of Silence, The Room, Courier, any such thing because, you know, I like her. If David Thomson can write a whole book about Nicole Kidman I can write a few paragraphs on Kurylenko. If Peter Bogdanovich made a movie with her it would be a holy experience for me!

There’s a little bit of wariness and reserve in Olga Kurylenko’s Ukrainian tough girl act; neither weak nor passively soft, she comes off a bit beyond reach and disillusioned, and perchance more desirable than many accessible old-style feminine archetypes.  She has been exploited both well and poorly in genre exercises such as the James Bond film Quantum of Solace and Roger Donaldson’s tumbledown Pierce Brosnan spy flick November Man and in rather more ambitious exercises such as Terence Malick’s To The Wonder and the fairly smart Tom Cruise science-fiction film Oblivion. Something about Kurylenko makes her hold back, a slight uncertainty confirmed in her big sad beguiling seen-too-much eyes. Seen too much of what?  I sure don’t know, but Kurylenko has a right to be wary; while playing a revengeful international aid worker in November Man, she does briefly dress up as an escort in her settling of scores.  Guess which ensemble is featured in November Man’s one-sheet?

novemberman

If I give the impression of having a “movie crush” on Kurylenko, well, since when should a cinema-goer become over-civilized and terrified of visceral response? For all her upright turns in poe-faced movies such as Russell Crowe’s The Water Diviner and Malick’s Wonder, she at present habitually uses her skeptical melancholic exquisiteness and concentrated physical awareness of her surroundings to lift minor genre exercises.

Momentum is the most recent case in point, a limited amusement where no two elements ever seem to be quite in step.  Notwithstanding a lot of violence and pandemonium, Momentum proves the emblematic hyper-violent modern caper flick that travels a rather wearisome horizontal course from beginning to end, leaving all attempts at grace to Kurylenko and an amused, sadistic James Purefoy as her tenacious, dapper, sociopathic hitman antagonist.

Momentum is more collated than thought-out, a slick-looking paranoid exercise in stylish cynicism. Kurylenko is up for her part; she is equipped with a steely glance that could check lava’s progress through sheer force of will, but for the most part goes through the film’s hackneyed motions  with an appealing steadfastness.  The film’s best conceit, set up but not actually developed, is that Purefoy himself grows a crush on her while observing her outsmart every henchman he throws her way as the film dashes towards its climax.  He shouts out during one car chase that he “likes this woman!” which forecasts a more spirited ride than what ensues.

The stunts, kills and timely escapes are flamboyantly directed by Clint Eastwood cameraman Stephen Campenelli. Morgan Freeman shows up for a split second as the main villain, in all probability reading lines off of a cue card or fed from an ear-piece.  One imagines he spent a week in Bulgaria or wherever this was shot filming morsels for a dozen underwhelming action exercises in return for a vigorous cash payout.

Still, let’s hope the capable and distinctive Kurylenko is better served by her material next time out. Kurylenko is resilient; I like the idea of her, and dutifully keep my distance, intrigued by and respectful of the inaccessible parts of herself from which she draws her strength. Momentum is no great movie, but as one more exhibit in the gallery of Kurylenko’s glamorous coolness, her striking disaffection, it gets by.

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