Directed by Mark Steven Johnston
Written by Ken Hixon & Keith Sharon
On the run from the law? You’d expect looking like one of Hollywood’s once highest-paid actors would get you noticed. Sporting a striking resemblance to Steve McQueen, the star of Bullitt and The Pebbles, Harry has an adoration for the motorcycle heartthrob, something which no doubt lies in his uncannily baby blue eyes and luck with the ladies. It’s time to come clean though, no more lies and accept that he isn’t the smooth, charismatic film star, but instead a happless but lucky man in love.
The idea of borrowing adapting The United California Bank Robbery, with Forest Whitaker and Lily Rabe teaming up to thwart a band of Ne’er-do-well bank robbers looking to rob President Nixon, should be a winner. It should be a cult classic, but Finding Steve McQueen struggles to find its footing. We’ll say this though, Ken Hixon & Keith Sharon’s is an accessible film, with a clear and direct narrative which does try to take sharp turns, but for the most part, we’re on a steady road.
Perhaps this accessibility in the performance is what raises the chemistry Travis Fimmel shares so readily with co-stars Rachael Taylor, Jake Weary and William Fichtner. For a less central role, Weary’s place as Harry’s veteran brother presents a layer to the characters as brother and robbers, and come the final moments offer a moment of sincerity, but reminds us of the wasted potential as a gang of rust belt thieves find themselves out of their depths in the land of Californian golfers.
Vikings star Fimmel doesn’t have much to run with, other than resorting to smirks and relying on a rather hollow charisma which is bowled over by McQueen’s nostalgic presence. In moments, particularly with Taylor or Weary, there’s something there, but where the film should call for emotion or drama, it keeps itself safe.
It’s too accessible, too bland and unable to sharpen itself. Attempting to disguise the underwritten nature of both the characters and narrative, Hixon and Sharon’s writing constructs a spit-time frame, where we re-live the events of the heist and the fall out as Harry explains the truth to his girlfriend, Molly. Either of these stories is a treasure-trove, neither strikes gold. The heist portion of the film is by the numbers, and save for a few quips between Fimmel and the foul-mouthed Scorsese embodying William Fichtner -it runs its course without much in the way of tension.
Where the real loss is with the relationship between Harry and Molly, the shreds of a McQueen charm eke out as Rachael Taylor brings a surprisingly commanding presence over Fimmel’s bluster. Taylor’s development across the film is present, without sacrificing the essence of the character – a struggling woman who maintains her dignity, while in pursuit of a man. She has limits, but she forgives. It’s just a shame that as Taylor draws out a character, Fimmel relies on those baby blues. If Taylor’s the film’s hot-fudge sundae, Fimmel’s the choc-ice.
What the film achieves in accessibility, it sorely lacks in determination or intention. As a heist film, it flops. As a comedy, it garners the odd chuckle (though much of the late 70s sexist humour could have been dropped). And it’s as much a thriller as an episode of Scooby-Doo. Mark Steven Johnson’s refusal to invest in any aspect of the film does offer a consolation prize in the harmless nature of the film, but it relegates potential to forgotten instances.
Consequentially, Finding Steve McQueen has issues finding itself amidst a sea of references and the grand shadows of the films which inspired both its narrative and character’s motivations. It attempts to be something of its own construction – the only question is, what precisely this is? It’s too surreal for history, too tame for a thriller. The laughs are there, the romance trying to spark, but rather than racing pulses or splitting sides, Finding Steve McQueen never matches the likes it pays tribute too. It’s a side-salad of a film – you’re itching for a hunk of steak, but you keep rooting out leaves and croutons.
Finding Steve McQueen will be available for digital download from November 16th and can be pre-ordered from here