It’s easy to see how some bad films get made. You might start with a great idea, and then after all three drafts, rewrites, production woes, and editing mistakes, that idea transforms into something less than intended. Then there are films like Tiger Raid, where it’s impossible to let l tell what went wrong along the way, and what was broken from the start.
The film follows Joe (Brian Gleeson, Snow White and the Huntsman) and Paddy (Damien Molony, Kill Your Friends) as two mercenaries on a covert mission setup by Dave, their mysterious boss who demands absolute loyalty from his men. The mission which involves kidnapping a wealthy Afghani’s daughter (Sofia Boutella) starts to fall apart as ghosts from their past threaten to tear them apart. Tiger Raid sells itself as an action thriller, which is a bit misleading because there is very little action and hardly any thrills. The film plays out more like a bad interpretation of Waiting For Godot, with an obsessive focus on bravado and a nine-year-old’s understanding of geopolitics.
If blame needs to be placed on any one thing the script, which took three people to write is a good place to start. Tiger Raid’s titular raid should be a taut dramatic structure from which to hang the internal struggles that are presumably the real meat of the story, but it proves a slow, ponderous affair. I’m no covert operative, but were I planning a raid, it probably wouldn’t include a quick stop at an oasis for a chat. In fact, every scene of this film is merely an excuse to monologue. It becomes obvious early on that Tiger Raid isn’t about a raid, it’s about Joe and Paddy’s past endeavors. The script written by Simon Dixon (who also directs), Mick Donnellan, and Gareth Coulam Evans violates a basic rule of storytelling: show don’t tell.
Tiger Raid’s structure would be frustrating even if the back stories it explored were worth hearing about; they aren’t. Joe’s story is one of self destruction, regret, and unyielding loyalty. It has all the merc cliche’s you’d expect – a ruined love affair, playing the ponies, and alcohol fueled bad decisions. Paddy’s story is one of forbidden love. Both these stories have twists built into them, but none of the film’s revelations are satisfying. There’s nothing clever about the way Tiger Raid unfolds its secrets. Revealing withheld information isn’t a twist. It’s bad storytelling.
Gleeson and Molony prove unable to turn water into wine, turning in predictably two dimensional portraits. Gleeson does inject a fair amount of manic energy into the role of Joe, while Molony seems to be hiding behind his black face paint, hoping no one will notice him. Si Bell’s cinematography is adequate, but the limits of the film’s budget feel present on the screen. Which is, I suppose, a consolation. If you’re going to make a complete disaster, at least make it a cheap disaster.
Verdict: 0 out of 5
Tiger Raid was probably intended to be an examination of perceptions of masculinity and the lies we tell each other and ourselves to justify our actions. What Simon Dixon has actually done is filmed an inane 90 minute conversation between unlikeable people that offers neither intrigue nor entertainment of any kind. Tiger Raid is premiering as part of the Midnight program at Tribeca, which calls it a disturbing action-thriller. Personally, I’d call it an aggressively bad waste of time.