With most remakes, filmmakers try and update the story a little and if there was something wrong or not so great about the first film, then an attempt is made to either fix it or go at it from a different angle.
Every now and then though one will come along which is simply what it is – a ‘remake’, nothing more. Oh sure, one or two scenes may be a tiny bit different and the references a little more modern, but for the most part it’s the exact same film done with a bigger budget and better visuals. “Phoenix” is one of those films.
It’s not a bad movie per se, but its not exactly a good movie either. Director John Moore brings his visual strengths to deliver a handful of strong action sequences such as the spectacular plane crash and the ending, but in between comes what is essentially a ‘desert castways’ kind of movie that feels all too long and has its fair amount of slow patches.
Quaid, Otto and Laurie all deliver the solid performances that you’d come to expect from veterans like these with many years of experience, hell even relative newbies like Tyrese are quite watchable. The blonded Ribisi however is the best performance in the film, his role delivering the required mix of bookish smarts and a somewhat cold detachment. His ‘big reveal’ may be a little silly but it has little bearing.
Moore edits and cuts his sequences stylishly, and gives us time to whilst not know, at least differentiate the characters. Unfortunately the script by Scott Frank and Edward Burns is fairly useless with one-dimensional roles who are differentiated far more by their accents and races than actual personalities. Dialogue is trite and situations hokey in that bland Hollywood way. Still, whilst it may not be challenging filmmaking it is a decent time passer that’s mildly entertaining in its own way.