Review: 'Closed Circuit'

There's a lot I don't know about the British justice system. Not just the wigs. Defendants don't just get a lawyer, they get something called a solicitor and then something else called a barrister. If it's an important enough crime, like the one at the center of John Crowley's "Closed Circuit," they also get a third, ultra-supra representative, one who isn't supposed to talk to the others and is there to work on his behalf when double-secret probation materials are revealed in a locked, private session of court.

It sounds nuts and it's just the sort of thing that would normally send me zipping to Wikipedia to learn more. Not this time, though, because "Closed Circuit" is such a bore that maintaining my Yank ignorance is my form of patriotic resistance. I mean - here in the good old U.S. of A. we would just send a guy like this to languish in Gitmo forever. That's a lot simpler!

The guy in question is Denis Moschitto's Farroukh Erdogan as an accused Turkish terrorist bomber whose cell blew up a busy outdoor market. Calling the bomber Erdogan, the name of the Turkish prime minister for last decade, is about as subtle as calling an American baddie Doubleyoubush. But don't fear - Erdogan's lawyer (Eric Bana) and other lawyer (Rebecca Hall, the best thing in the film by a country mile) soon discover that Erdogan isn't his real name. He is (shocker!) not what he appears and is actually a pawn in a much bigger, deadlier game. Spoiler alert to anyone who hasn't watched a movie since "Three Days of the Condor": the secret branches of the government are corrupt.

Bana and Hall are actually ex-lovers who “just happened” to get selected for this trial. Technically, this isn't allowed, but they agree to keep it secret because they are both headstrong and want this case, the biggest in decades. Gee, you think this might, you know, be a red flag or something? Like maybe they're being played? Hard to sympathize with such knuckleheads.

The pair quickly recognize they are “in too deep” when they find themselves hailing cabs with great ease. (Maybe having MI5 spying on you isn't so bad during the morning rush.) Also: Bana has some whispered conversations with Julia Stiles, on loan from the “Bourne” films, but this time playing a New York Times reporter with knowledge of the conspiracy. Her job is to say “yep” when Bana floats all of his theories, then to quickly end up dead to make sure everyone knows the stakes are high.

Hall gets more to chew on. As someone who gets to look at the super secret files (but not actually, as the third act has even MORE super secret files) she gets a security agent dispatched to her office. Played by Riz Ahmed as an ultra patriotic Brit of Pakistani decent, these scenes are, quite frankly, the only ones with a spark of originality. The obvious, juicy racial contradictions stay mostly below the surface and the two performers dig in for some outstanding verbal parries.

These moments are, unfortunately, few, and do more to damage the rest of “Closed Circuit” by reminding us what good movies are like. Also, there's not all that much happening visually, don't fall for any marketing that positions this as the next “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.”

What really bugs me about “Closed Circuit” is that it just isn't smart. I never know who the bad guys are in movies – but here I knew immediately. Then there are things that you just can't know that our heroes just “figure out.” No clues, just a hunch that turns out to be correct. It's an infuriating screenwriting cheat. Well, not too infuriating, because you just won't care. The whole picture is lifeless and without consequence and by the time everyone is chasing each other in the last scenes I guarantee your mind will be off somewhere, thinking about where you parked or what you'll have for dinner. Or, far worse, you'll catch yourself thinking about other, better legal thrillers. That's not a closed circuit – it's a short.

SCORE: 3.0 / 10