Momentum: Pick Up the Pace, by Aaron Pinkston
The opening scene of debut filmmaker Stephen Campanelli’s Momentum sets up a pretty intriguing crime plot with just a tinge of a cool science fiction world. The extended bank heist scene features a group of unseen characters donned in hi-tech full body suits like something you’d see Cobra design. The group is able to crack the advanced vault and score a load of diamonds, but not everything goes down perfectly. Mistakes and in-fighting put them in jeopardy, ultimately sparking a showdown with some powerful people looking to take the score for themselves. But Momentum can’t sustain its interesting groundwork, becoming a fairly by-the-numbers chase film with too little action and too few ideas.
Most strangely, the intriguing use of futuristic elements in the opening heist sequence (along with the sleek body suits is the locking element to the vault that uses body scanning tech that leads to a fun moment) is immediately and completely dropped. It is difficult to pin down exactly when the opening sequence is supposed to take place, which is part of what makes it so intriguing. It seems to be in a near-distant future which runs like our modern world, but with a realistic increase in practical technology. Momentum is a strong case for the importance of world building, though in reverse – not building on these elements of the world makes the decisions feel out of place, perhaps cool only to be cool, without much thought behind them.
Similarly, opening an action film with its most striking setpiece is a tricky proposition. After the heist goes down, Momentum becomes a more modest cat-and-mouse chase film with the requisite types of scenes you expect from this genre. Outside of a few decent showdown scenes (bolstered by James Purefoy’s sharp-tongued performance as the CIA operative antagonist) the punch-and-run action style doesn’t hold the title’s promise.
Olga Kurylenko is given a rare opportunity to lead a film and she adequately does what the film asks her to do. The Russian actress has an enigmatic, ultracool quality that works for an action lead, especially a female one, but the character lacks any depth that would enhance this quality beyond the surface. Momentum relies on her physicality, though often in silly ways like running through a hotel in a nightie. Still, there are quick glimpses of a complete badass. Ultimately, Momentum isn’t big enough or clever enough to pull Kurylenko to a higher level, even with good building blocks there.
Momentum isn’t a disaster, just a bit ordinary and dull. It doesn’t seem to know what it is, or at least is blind to its greatest potential. The film’s open ending suggests the start of a franchise, which I could honestly see working, though with a redefined hook. The B-level action landscape is starved for strong female leads, so there is undoubtedly potential. And Momentum’s biggest problems can certainly be corrected with a little more style, creativity and focus. Unfortunately, the presumed first in the franchise doesn’t hold up on its own.