How about “potboiler”?
Is that cool? To drag the shrink wrap off another precooked-and-conveniently-microwaveable item from The Lazy-Ass Reviewer’s Approved Glossary of Shortcuts ($24.95, Random House*)? Thing is, if you wanted to nail me on it, I’m not sure I could tell you what that word really means, in any precise or concrete sense — ’cept maybe to say that Tony Gilroy’s got a pretty solid handle on how to set you down in the middle of one and take you for a seat-edger of a spin. (To wit: Homeboy wrote The Cutting Edge.)
That’s embarrassing. And right here in print, too.
Guess who just looked up “potboiler”?
So, I meant it in the positive (“nail-biter”/“page-turner”/“thriller”), rather than derisive (“of-generally-poor-artistic-merit-and-done-solely-for-a-buck”) sense — the latter of which (1) was, alas, quite unbeknownst to me and (2) appears to be, as it turns out, the rather unambiguously more popular of the two. This is possibly because I seem to have more-or-less made the first one up. (Actually, I’m getting that the most complete definition is something of a combination, but it’s good to have such things straight in yer noggin about a word before you go and, say, put it in your lede. Lesson learned, God willing.) (Probably should take a moment now and rewrite that opening paragraph.) (Yep. Prob’ly should.)
Really, though, the label still kinda works. Gilroy’s stylish corporate-spies comedy/con flick Duplicity, adorned blindingly with the re-teaming of Roberts and Owen, doesn’t feel like a cash grab, but will very likely achieve the same result. By no means is it shoddily made or artistically bankrupt, but it does approximate a breezy-ish and fun Michael Clayton-lite, done perhaps as a lark. And while the film as a whole doesn’t feel phoned-in, and the proto-leads at its forefront supply an ample portion of what makes the proceedings so enjoyable to watch, said leads don’t seem to be called upon for anything far too challenging.
I liked it. Does it sound like I liked it? I liked it. Quite a bit. The tale is twisty and fresh-ish, the supporting cast an impeccable hoot (a particular revelation is Preston’s interrogation scene with Roberts — reminds me of the first time I saw Amy Adams and Elizabeth Banks and was like, “Who was THAT?” `watch O’Hare/Rick Worthy, too`), the slo-mo opening-title sequence an inventive immediate classic. A somewhat foreseen conclusion left me a shade disappointed; you may not feel the same.
Even money: It’ll boil your pot. The good way.
*(not a real book)