Netflix has a something of a persistent problem with its ‘Netflix Originals’: its clear that they have lots of money to throw around at projects offered up to them and a really desperate need for new content on its platform. It must be a great time to be a creative in Hollywood right now.
Well, it was until Covid came along and rather derailed things, but what I’m getting at (Hollywood studios making hugely expensive blockbusters that it has no cinemas for notwithstanding), is that with Apple TV, Amazon Prime, Netflix, Disney+ and countless other streaming platforms financing all sorts of productions (series and movies), it must be a good time to be a creative in Hollywood or anywhere else, for that matter. All sorts of productions that wouldn’t ordinarily have ever seen the light of day suddenly get greenlit as if by sheer desperation for content. Money is getting thrown around these days like there is some kind of goldrush. Content is everything in the streaming wars, but the real trick is, not just any content, it has to be GOOD content. There’s not much point spending millions on something rubbish that nobody watches or that is killed after the first weekend by word of mouth: you don’t want your streaming service to be considered the Happy Dumping Ground for stuff no other streamer wants and nobody watches.
But maybe Netflix didn’t get that memo. Or maybe they have so much money they don’t really care (Katee Sackhoff’s Another Life got a second season, for fracks sake). Its fairly obvious that Netflix has more than its fair share of material that is leaning on the ‘average to absolute rubbish’ scale. It needs to put more quality content up, and unfortunately Outside the Wire is absolutely not it. It opens with an intriguing premise but slides into absurdity within very little time at all, in that manner that is beginning to seem peculiar to so many Netflix Originals. Like The Midnight Sky, another Netflix Original that I watched just a few weeks ago, there is something fundamentally wrong at the screenplay stage with Outside the Wire. Its a mess. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t make sense. But it went into production anyway: gotta fill that January 2021 slot.
Sure, its executed efficiently enough- I mean, it looks pretty good with decent production values and fairly well-staged action sequences, but that’s really just about it. The cast are much better than the material: in fact, there is more than just a suggestion that this is a case of guns-for-hire just doing their job, and a really poor b-movie project being elevated by the money Netflix is throwing around and the cast and crew that money attracts. Its the kind of project that as a low-budget b-movie in the 1980s might have been fun and worthwhile- elevated to a ‘big’ movie with its high production values, it just made the thing seem worse than it possibly might have. If you’re going to hire Anthony Mackie, give him something to do. If you’re going to make him a cyborg/robot, have some point to it, some reason for that, other than to have him looking cool in numerous video-game-like action sequences doing superhuman stuff. As it was, I was much more interested in the “Gumps” that were being used as frontline mechanical warriors, and how ‘remote’ and ‘acceptable’ they made combat seem in just the same way as military Drones do. Why not have some commentary about that? Why not do something like what THX 1138 did decades ago? Have a military operation and run a cost evaluation against it that goes up with every bullet fired and Gump lost and collateral damage amassed, and once the op exceeds its budget the top brass back home pulls the plug. You know, throw some social commentary in; surely that didn’t go out of fashion with Robocop?
This, unfortunately, is some other totally different movie/nonsense that pretends to raise big subjects and themes but, er, doesn’t, really. It conjures up some future civil war in Eastern Europe if only so it can shoot the thing in Hungary and thus benefit from increased production efficiencies, because its setting narratively doesn’t really add anything or even make any sense, necessarily. Why would the US go into Ukraine in the future when it never has up to now, even when civilian aircraft are shot out of the sky? Why would Russia allow that and why don’t we see any Russian presence or dramatic tensions or threat from its border? It eventually posits a nuclear threat from hidden silos but by this point the film is laughably implausible and its hard to feel any real threat. And if out hero has worked out thermal rounds/grenades do the business against our renegade robot, how come the bad guys never managed to work it out?
Ach. I’ve gone and done it again, devoted too much time and too many words posting about a film that really doesn’t deserve it. You really need to sort out the Quality Control, Netflix. Simply throwing the dice just doesn’t cut it, not anymore- certainly now that Apple and Disney are getting in on the act.