Special Correspondents

Year: 2016
Production Co: Bron Studios
Studio: Netflix
Director: Ricky Gervais
Producer: Ricky Gervais
Writer: Ricky Gervais
Cast: Ricky Gervais, Eric Bana, Kelly Macdonald, Vera Farmiga, America Ferrera, Kevin Pollack, Benjamin Bratt

The Office was some of the best writing and performing to come from British TV for a long time, so I've never been able to work out why Ricky Gervais is so less effective on the big screen (or in feature length on the small screen, in this case).

In the dreadful The Invention of Lying and again here he wears his personal beliefs (atheism, in both cases) too obviously on his sleeve and it reeks of lecture, which is made all the worse by the story itself going completely off the rails well before the end, the plot all over the place.

Perhaps worst of all it's just not very funny, Gervais and co-star Eric Bana seemingly committing the first scenes and jokes they workshopped to film. You just never get a sense of who their characters are or how they fit together comically.

Gervais plays a doltish English sound technician working for a local New York radio station alongside the James Bond-esque investigative reporter Frank (Bana) who can talk himself into any crime scene to get the scoop and who shows the rest of the station up in doing so, often getting into trouble from their boss by breaking the rules.

The hilarious premise (their words, not mine) is when a last minute trip comes up to report on a military coup in Uruguay. When Finch (Gervais) is put in charge of both his and Franks passports and travel papers and accidentally throws them out, there's no way to get to their flight and if they go back to the station admitting to another screw-up they'll both lose their jobs.

The solution is to hide out in the upstairs apartment of the breathtakingly stupid Hispanic couple that run Finch's favourite diner and file reports – complete with sound effects of jungles and choppers in the background – as if they're in a South American danger zone.

As their story grows in fame it only traps them tighter into the corner they've painted themselves into, everyone fearful for their lives in the hands of gruesome guerilla kidnappers when in reality they're eating take-out food in a building right opposite the radio station where they work.

As well as the main story not being terribly funny and the lead actors having no comic chemistry, there are a bunch of increasingly strange asides that make it feel like Netflix commissioned Gervais for a feature length movie when he only had enough material for a sitcom episode

The movie fills the rest of the running time up with whatever dumb ideas it seems he came up during a late night drinking session, like Finch's callous wife (Vera Farmiga) trading on her grief by starting a charity and a singing career, not the least interested in Finch or Frank (who she had a one-night stand with before they concocted the scheme).

And just when it seems to finally run out of ideas – like someone was trying to stop it feeling like a one-scene play – the action moves to Mexico where Frank and Finch travel illegally to try and reach Uruguay for real so they can stage a homecoming. Instead they're taken prisoner by drug dealers and thrown in a locked cell.

With a vastly different script and a much better story it could have been as good a satire about the role of journalism (complete with a fake war) as Wag the Dog. Instead it's a badly miscast mess that Gervais again uses to grandstand about personal beliefs that have nothing to do with the premise.

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