Director Russell Mulcahy, the Melbourne filmmaker whose career has seen him graduate from Elton John music videos to varied levels of cinematic quality (the 1984 wild boar in the outback horror flick Razorback, the ill-advised Kim Basinger vehicle The Real McCoy, and the Geoffrey Rush drama Swimming Upstream just a few of his efforts) is perhaps having a little bit too much fun helming In Like Flynn.
Though it’s not necessarily a negative aspect to be enjoying one’s self whilst directing, Mulcahy all too often adopts an outlandish, near-cartoonish mentality, lending a certain unevenness to this odd “biopic” about Errol Flynn, one of Australia’s first grand Hollywood exports who achieved worldwide recognition in the 1930’s for his romantic swashbuckling roles, becoming best known for his turn as Robin Hood in 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood. His career would ultimately perish following allegations of sexual assault from two under-age girls in the 1940’s, and whilst the man’s life is clearly ripe with success and scandal worthy of its own film, In Like Flynn focuses on him prior to his fame when he was a gold prospector – or so we’re to believe.
Screenwriters Steve M. Albert, Marc Fumie, and Corey Large (the latter serving as the film’s producer and lead co-star) delight in presenting Flynn (here played by the suitably charming Thomas Cocquerel) as an Indiana Jones-type explorer, with the film’s chaotic and alarmingly violent opening set in the jungles of Papua New Guinea setting the scene for the unpredictable, supremely theatrical story that is to follow.
Chinese smugglers, corrupt cops, fight clubs, and a trail of glamorous women (Isabel Lucas and Nathalie Kelly just two of the beautiful faces encountered) are just some of the ingredients packed tight into the film’s slick 98 minute frame, rarely allowing the audience to catch their breath – or, more likely, to cease an opportunity for them to seriously examine the nonsense they’re digesting. At once both camp (David Wenham is ludicrously over-the-top as the Mayor of Townsville) and unrelenting in its serious depictions of violence, it’s hard not to be swept up in Flynn‘s charm.
The sailing sequences aboard the sleek yacht Sirocco (stolen from Chinese opium smugglers) are some of the film’s finest, and the camaraderie between Flynn and his right-hand Rex (Large), proper Englishman Dook (William Moseley), and seasoned sea-dog Charlie (Clive Standen, whose delivery is inorganic to say the least) attempts to give the film a sense of emotional depth, though ultimately it’s all just surface-level fodder for a film that’s predominantly fizzy and shamelessly cheesy – which won’t necessarily be negative aspects to an audience willing to give in to Flynn.
TWO AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
In Like Flynn is in cinemas from Thursday, 11th October 2018.