Everybody wants to be a bodyguard. Not that it’s the most glamorous job in the world, but Richard Madden’s efforts last year held us all in thrall. And now, hard on his heels, comes Noomi Rapace in the latest offering from Netflix, which they tell us is based on the experiences of the world’s leading female in the profession.
In Close, her character specializes in tough assignments, so when she’s offered a week looking after a teenage heiress, it seems nothing more than a babysitting job. Not quite her thing. But the client has specified a woman, so she takes the money, only to discover this is a more complicated job than it appears. When she and her charge, Zoe (Sophie Nelisse) are kidnapped, her skills get them out of a tight spot and they go on the run. But, as well as making sure they’re not caught again, they also need to find out who’s behind their pursuers.
There’s a near-tradition in movies involving bodyguards that the protector is going to become involved with their client – you only have to think of Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston – and Close makes no effort to avoid it. To her credit, however, director and co-writer Vicky Jewson doesn’t place it at the centre of the narrative: teenage heiress Zoe already has a male minder at the start of the movie and they’ve crossed the proverbial line, hence the need for a female replacement. That aside, she sticks to well-worn convention when it comes to other aspects of Zoe’s character. She’s the epitome of the poor little rich girl, showered with the best that money can buy but, underneath, feeling trapped and more vulnerable than ever now her father has died and she’s under the care of her hated stepmother. Yes, you spotted another convention there, and that one’s as old as the hills.
There are plenty more and they spill over into the dialogue as well. “Don’t open the door to anybody,” Rapace commands as she leaves their latest hiding place – and you just know what’s going to happen. Close is so chock-full of clichés, conventions and tropes that you find yourself wishing for a few Bandersnatch-style choices to liven things up. Admittedly, there’s plenty of action, with Rapace’s kick-ass attitude looking like a less glamorous version of Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde, but even an underwater sequence fails to lift it much above the routine.
It’s no wonder that she spends the film looking decidedly sour: her face is increasingly battered and only cracks into a half smile just once. You can’t blame Rapace: she puts herself through the physical mill for little reward and, as an actor, seems to be stuck in a po-faced rut of B movies. How many of us remember last year’s Bright and Unlocked from the year before? She manages to bring a touch of class to her performance, making her the best thing in a decidedly average film where the acting is generally so wooden the splinters are very much on show.
There are moments when the film tries to make you assume it’s going to take the most obvious narrative path: sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn’t. And when it doesn’t, it takes the second most obvious one instead. It’s rather like Close throughout. Second best.
Freda Cooper | [rating=2]
Drama, Action, Aventure | Netflix, 18 January (2019) | Netflix | Dir. Vicky Jewson | Noomi Rapace, Sophie Nelisse, Indira Varma, Eoin Macken and Akin Gazi.