In Afghanistan, a series of bank transactions are made over the internet via a laptop out in the desert, and the man making a lot of money out of these arrangements walks out of the Portacabin happy, prepared to be driven off to enjoy his riches. However, suddenly shots ring out and his underlings drop like flies: when his driver attempts to escape with him and his assistant in the car, it is stopped by a bulldozer. Soon there are five mercenaries standing over him, pointing guns and demanding to know where their money is - he fudges the offer and the bad guys take matters into their own hands.
But where is Nicolas Cage? He is in this as a cop, but the fact he appears after about ten minutes of plot then actually speaks after about twenty should give you the idea he may have been hired for his name above the title value rather than any great use for his talents. If you were hoping for a classic Cage freakout, you would not get it here, the closest he comes is in an emotional scene where he carried so much baggage as an actor that you could be forgiven for laughing when the tone was intended to be tragic; not camp, exactly, since he was not really a comedian, simply looking rather silly.
This was supposed to be based on a real-life event that occurred in the nineteen-nineties, that shootout between robbers and police that happened to be broadcast on television as it happened and has gone down in semi-legendary status among those viewers who watched the drama unfold live. With all that in mind, if you knew of that story even in passing you would be aware this movie had more to do with another event of the nineties: the shootout scene in Michael Mann's Heat, which this not only aped but dragged out for around an hour of a pretty short running time of around eighty minutes.
To add human interest, professional snowboarder turned director York Alec Shackleton (grandson of explorer Ernest Shackleton, fact fans) mixed in a bunch of soap opera plotlines in the manner of a seventies made for TV disaster movie, which was all very well, but showed up a common problem of this era's action flicks, that they struggled with the human interest parts where there were no bullets flying or explosions detonated. And let's not start on the parts intended as light relief where the characters let their hair down and indulge in goodnatured joshing, which if anything were a step back from similar scenes witnessed in every U.S. cop show episode of the seventies by dint of not being particularly funny.
Those mercenaries we saw at the beginning make their way to Los Angeles for some reason - if it's that easy to get money over the internet, why bother leaving Afghanistan at all? Actually, why bother murdering the man who was willing to fund you anyway and do it the hard way? That can be answered in one sentence: there would be no movie. Unfortunately, this merely serves to illustrate the whole scheme was a complete waste of time, something you may be considering yourself after the half hour mark, when the shooting starts and demonstrates how difficult it is to hit someone with a bullet from about six feet away, or it is if you're this lot who couldn't hit the broad side of a barn without about fifty tries. The melodrama didn't land, the action showed off how adept Mann was at this sort of thing in comparison to his imitators, and it was obviously one of those cheapo East European shoots (Bulgaria, if you're interested) leaving 211 (a police code sign) as strictly for the Cage completists. They do exist. Music by Frederik Wiedmann.
[211, out to download now and on DVD 23rd July. Lionsgate's disc doesn't have extras, but it does have subtitles.]