The Pulp Thrills of “Stratton” Get Lost in Stock Characters and Rote Scenarios


John Stratton, the hero of Simon West’s actioner, is introduced as a protocol-shunting Special Boat Service operative with a history of soured relationships. In the botched opening raid on an Iranian laboratory harboring biochemical weapons, Stratton’s partner (Tyler Hoechlin), clarified in flashbacks to be a new father, gets gunned down; in the aftermath, the surviving serviceman returns home to a breakup note (“IT’S OVER DON’T EVER CALL ME AGAIN!”) and a drinking session with an old-timer (Derek Jacobi), who later reveals that Stratton was orphaned at a young age. But Dominic Cooper, requisitely bearded, plays Stratton merely as a mildly sullen professional who goes about his business; there’s little surface indication of the hurt and loneliness that must be driving this man at each step. The character has been adapted for the screen by the ex–SBS soldier Duncan Falconer, who has written a number of Stratton novels based on his experiences; instead of reserving its pathos-producing flashbacks for the quickly dispatched partner, whose arc barely registers, the movie might have benefited from showing glimpses of the adolescent Stratton, who is said to have fallen in love with the water at an impressionable age. The rest of the characters — Connie Nielsen as an MI6 honcho, Thomas Kretschmann as a terror-minded former FSB agent thought to have been dead for twenty years — are equally unvivid, serving only to advance the vague plot through chunky reams of dialogue. The average punch line runs something like this: After Stratton meets his deferential replacement sidekick (Austin Stowell), he muses: “You can cut the ‘sir.’ Everyone calls me Stratton.” The steely confidence with which Cooper delivers the instruction would go over much better in a movie whose pulpy heft extended beyond the indication of a surname.

Directed by Simon West
Momentum Releasing
Opens January 5, On Demand