The set-up of a movie is crucial and in Bastille Day's opening scenes we see a naked young woman attracting tourists' attention on the steps of Montmartre - apparently so her partner can rob them while they are ogling her breasts. Inexplicably, it transpires that the naked woman doesn't really know her accomplice, so just why she agrees to do this is a mystery - as is much of this movie's plot.
Richard Madden plays Michael Mason, an adroit pickpocket who becomes embroiled in an elaborate heist to rip off the French national bank. And apparently only one man can stop this - CIA agent Sean Briar, played by Idris Elba. Die Hard in Paris this is not. I would like to say that I enjoyed the rooftop chase sequences, the kinetic fight sequences, but I didn't really - I felt that I'd seen it all before in other, better movies. Namely The Bourne Identity and the Bond reboot Skyfall. It never feels as though Briar is in any real danger so it's hard to root for him or invest in the story in any way.
Then there's the hokey dialogue that had me laughing out loud at some points (and not in a good way). The actors do their best but they are let down by a pedestrian script that lacks invention and wit. I also have to say that Bastille Day is a real boy fest; women hardly get a look-in here. Kelly Reilly is wasted as Briar's handler, Karen Dacre - so much so, I had to wonder why she signed up for this project. And then I checked the credits and saw that Amazon was involved. I trust she was suitably renumerated (enough to make her own movie, I hope).
I was so surprised at the script's failings, I had to look up the writer on Imdb.com. According to their listings, he seems to have come from nowhere and is slated to write the next instalment in the Bourne franchise. All I can say is I hope the studio already has a team of other writers in place to rewrite him. Meanwhile James Watkins, the director, was behind Eden Lake and The Woman in Black. Bastille Day seems like a huge leap - perhaps a leap too far.
Bastille Day is an ambitious experiment, an attempt to do a large scale action movie in a European setting - but ultimately that experiment fails. Would that the producers had hired a script consultant (or a female writer) to add some much-needed humour and heart to this empty affair.