Operator clearly aspires to be an action blockbuster. It pretty much takes its plot from a seminal example of the genre, Die Hard 3. And in spite of what is clearly a tiny production budget, it offers up all the requisite gunfights, explosions, and car chases. And while what shows up on screen is kind of decent when you factor in how little this movie must have cost, it still isn’t anything worth watching. Operator picks up all the wrong lessons from big budget action movies, embracing all of the stupidity with none of the craft to make up for it.
Pamela (Mischa Barton) works as a 911 operator. Her ex-husband, Jeremy (Luke Goss) is a police officer. Jeremy wants to make nice with Pamela, but she isn’t having any of it. Then, Pamela receives a strange call at work. She is told that her daughter has been kidnapped, and that she has to follow the caller’s instructions to keep her safe. She is forced to send Jeremy and the rest of the police into one dangerous situation after another. With the bad guy firmly in control, Pamela and Jeremy must work together in secret in order to beat him.
The premise of the picture is pretty worn out at this point. Too many films have already gone through the “Simon Says” scenario, and this one doesn’t have anything new to bring to the situation. It just makes a whole lot less sense, the whole plot building towards a big twist that is unreasonably convoluted. This film basically relies on a bad guy who already has the resources to basically take control of an entire city. He sets up a series of elaborate traps that require a whole lot of meticulous planning. It makes no sense that the bad guy would have to be involve this one couple, putting part of this really complicated plan in the hands of people that actively working against its success.
And so it turns out that the film is actually pretty complicated. It is complicated in the way that many of the worst action films are. A lot of blockbusters are suffused with plot, the stories overstuffed with narrative elements that only draw away from the immediacy of the action. This film picks up all the worst aspects of big dumb action movies, but it offers none of the appealing bombast. It just doesn’t have the resources to stage the kind of scenes that can make up for all the dumbness that an action movie can bring. The visual effects are uniformly terrible. The camerawork is jittery. The chase sequences are incoherently put together.
The acting is no good, either. Mischa Barton mainly looks confused through most of the picture. Though to be fair, it’s hard to blame her. The character isn’t given a whole lot of agency or personality, leaving the actress to just look vaguely annoyed all the time. Luke Goss has all the charisma of the brick wall, and he shares no chemistry with Barton. The movie asks that the audience root for these two to end up back together, but it just doesn’t work. Ving Rhames sleepwalks through his role, perhaps totally aware of just how silly this movie is.
Operator is straight up junk. There are ways to craft an action movie with a lower budget. One just needs to be smarter about it, to find other approaches to build the sense of danger. But this film just attempts to do what big budget blockbusters do minus all of the infrastructure and resources. The result is predictably laughable. Without the appropriate level of bombast, the audience is left to focus on just how stupid this plot really is. It makes absolutely no sense, and there aren’t enough explosions in here to make that forgivable.
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