It’s always interesting to see who winds up in a direct to video film and who doesn’t. John Cusack is not one you’d normally associate with headlining a DTV film but with the state of Hollywood being what it is one of Hollywood’s remarkably successful careers. Cusack is rarely in a bad film and rarely in a film that doesn’t make its budget back, either. Thus it’s shocking that he’d wind up going to DTV again with another action film in 2013, this one The Numbers Station.
Emerson (Cusack) is a black ops hitter for the CIA who messed up his last assignment. He’s assigned to a fairly easy job: baby sit a worker at a Numbers Station at a remote location that isn’t supposed to exist. It’s a fairly easy existence; he’s body guarding someone for three days straight, then off for three. It’s penance until he clears his head straight, of course, as the last assignment haunts him still. It’s a dull existence that’s about to get more interesting when the two are assaulted going into the complex. They don’t know who, or why, but all they know is that someone wants them dead. They’ve got four hours to figure out why.
If the film sounds a black ops version of Rio Bravo or Assault on Precinct 13 it’s because the film is a spiritual cousin to it. This is the sort of film that John Carpenter could’ve made if he wanted to rip himself off and make a similar film to his cult classic.
It’s an interesting choice for Cusack, who spends most of the film playing off Ackerman. He’s not playing his usual sort of naval gazing neurotic; rarely do we see him play the tough guy. He and Ackerman have a tough chemistry; she has to play clueless while he plays a non-romantic bodyguard. It’s an interesting choice, mainly because a lazier screenwriter would’ve written a half-baked romance into it for dramatic purposes, and this is perfectly functional screenwriting.
All told this is a perfectly acceptable film, barely hitting above mediocrity because the material isn’t strong enough to make it so. For DTV purposes it’s significantly better than it has any right to be, of course, and it continues Cusack’s seemingly endless streak of never making a bad film. It’s acceptable genre work and a quick viewing as well.
There’s a Making Of piece that doesn’t add much back into the film.
Image Entertainment presents The Numbers Station. Directed by Kasper Barfoed. Written by F. Scott Frazier. Starring John Cusack, Malin Ackerman. Running time: 89 minutes. Rated R. Released: May 28, 2013. Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: John Cusack