THE COURIER – Blu-ray review

With a known cast like Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Mickey Rourke, Lily Taylor and Mark Margolis, you would think a movie should be coherent and polished looking.  Instead, “The Courier” is a confused piece of schizo-cinema.  I suppose it depends on the intentions of the movie.  If it wants to be an action movie, there’s not enough action.  If it wants to be a dramatic character-driven piece, there’s too much needless action.  This is a film in which the intentions are large but the implementation is languid.

The opening scene of “The Courier” attempts to gives us an introduction to the main protagonist (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) successfully completing a “exhilarating” job taking place atop a giant rollercoaster.  The idea for opening the film this way is commendable unfortunately some shaky CGI takes much of the thrill right out of it. You are also not sure if it’s a flash forward or the ending of a previous mission.  Where a movie like “Speed” pulls this off successfully by introducing its main characters engaging in an introductory mission, “Courier” does not make that distinction clearly.

The Courier, as listed in the credits, is an underground courier for hire with a reputation for being the best.  He doesn’t ask questions and doesn’t get emotionally involved; he just brings things from Point A to Point B.  One day two men walk into his life and give him 60 hours to deliver a briefcase to an extremely dangerous man or the family of his friend Stich (Mark Margolis) will be killed.    That is the initial setup we are given.  To say any more would spoil any potential twists.  Occasionally, the back of Mickey Rourke’s head makes an appearance with his voice accompanying it. On the outset, he seems to be the puppet master tugging things along.

On paper the plot with its many twists sounds good.  Too bad the execution and budget get in the way of making a truly tasty morsel of cinema.  It feels like they had some great scenes storyboarded but could not execute them to fit together coherently.  It comes off as a low end Jason Statham movie.  There are many lazy aspects to this film, several of which illicit many eye rolls. Some of note is a nonchalant police station escape, a random garbage truck coincidentally driving by when needed to jump from a big height and countless abandoned but perfectly usable cars.  There’s also lot of makeshift “cool science” gadgets used to track people and spy on their conversations but without any explanation of how they could possibly work.

Certain information is forgotten to be given to the viewer and when certain characters appear.   You don’t know who they are and where they fit in.  In most cases this would bring intrigue into the picture but in “The Courier” it comes off as frustrating.  The final twist is not nearly as powerful as was intended due to the shoddy storytelling that comes before it.  It seems the movie would have benefited by the filmmakers taking a step back before production started to polished it up.  In one of the extras, Morgan mentions they wanted to make a $30 million action movie but they didn’t have $30 million dollars.  Instead they added more character scenes to flesh them out. That sound like a good idea in spirit but the lean 99 minute running time doesn’t allow that to happen.

Aside from the confusing narrative, the performances are not half bad.  Jeffrey Dean Morgan looks like the type of guy that can carry a movie single handedly.  He’s large and attractive in a haggard type of way, but here he’s a one trick pony, he’s worn-down.  He lumbers aournd the sets looking tired and not entirely committed.  Mark Margolis as Stitch is perfectly serviceable as the courier’s friend and mentor.  In the second half of the movie, we are introduced to some intriguing characters, The Capos played by Lili Taylor and Miguel Ferrer.  They do not get much screentime but they take advantage of the time they are given.

Presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, “The Courier” comes to blu-ray with an underwhelming 1080p AVC encode.  Even though it was shot with a Red One 4k camera, the picture does not stand out in any impressive fashion.  Several of the outdoor daytime scenes look good however most of the darker scenes seem too murky for any detail to pop out.  I will say that most of that stems from the shady lighting during filming.  The major detriment of the HD transfer is when it exposes the obvious special effects backgrounds.  As mentioned before, the opening scene is mostly green screen and it stands out clearly.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is good but not great.  It matches the budget quality of the video. There is a lot of surround sound moments that create a nice sound field but again the HD exposes the poor quality of the sound effects used.  There is quite a bit of nice bass throughout and the dialogue is clear.

The Extras on the disc are minimal.  There is a 20 minute Behind the Scenes feature about the making of the film which is not too revealing however there are some insightful moments on the idea of the film in general.  Secondly, there are several deleted scenes.  These are some dry extra moments that most likely not have helped the final product.   Lastly is the trailer for the movie in HD.

Bottom line:
As earlier stated, “The Courier” would have benefitted from the creators taking a step back and giving the script a nice once-over to iron out some of the lazier plot holes.  It is not an offensive film.  It gets an A for good intentions, but the final product is what counts.  With barely average video/audio quality and sparse extras, this is worth nothing more than a rental recommendation.