Ricky Gervais directs this Netflix vehicle, a remake of 2009 French film Envoyés Très Spéciaux, where two radio journalists fake broadcasts from a war zone after losing their tickets and are stuck at home. This escalates into faking their own kidnapping.
Gervais plays Ian, the hapless tech responsible for their predicament and Eric Bana is Frank, cool and arrogant anchorman stuck with him. Gervais performance is half-hearted as the Gervais ‘schtick’ has worn past thin and this lack of depth bleeds through the rest of the film.
Characters are not fully rounded humans but half an idea or a joke. Ian’s wife is a one note joke that is initially funny played by Vera Farmiga but becomes tiresome and one dimensional. Kelly Macdonald‘s one feature is to inexplicably be attracted to the unaware Gervais.
Then America Ferrera and Raúl Castillo also feature as the impossibly nice-but-dim couple who offer shelter for the fake transmissions. None of this would be a problem if the lack of human characters were part of a whacky farce, but the film strives to land a serious point on media manipulation. But that point is not clear neither is the knockabout comedy elements.
You don’t need likeable characters to make a good comedy but the film wants you to cheer on Gervais’ underdog that ticks a number of tropes of video games and comics but his performance never breaks out of second gear. The scene that defines his performance is when making a hostage tape Bana ‘hilariously’ forces some emotion out of him but the supposed emotional voiceover is the same as the rest of his performance.
Gervais is in autopilot like many recent Adam Sandler performances but fortunately it is not offensive or unlikeable as Sandler’s films. This film is just no where near as funny or thoughtful as it needs to be to earn more than a 2 star rating