Netflix Gets “Close” — And Feminist Filmmaking Is Kicked in the Crotch

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Get out the blindfold you last used for your Bird Box meme and put on your SONY noise-canceling headphones. Only now will you be ready for one of Netflix’s latest offerings, the mind-numbing, cliché-ridden, anti-adrenaline-pumping, female-driven actioner, Close.

Just imagine Steven Seagal in drag mouthing dialogue written by a 13-year-old boy who unconsciously enjoys watching women being threatened with rape and getting a good drubbing, and you sort of have this film down pat.

This lame excuse for an entertainment, apparently “inspired by the life of the world’s leading female bodyguard, Jacquie Davis,” is directed and co-written by Vicky Jewson, who in the past has helmed such critically decimated efforts as Lady Godiva (2008) (3.6 on IMDB; 20% on Rotten Tomatoes’ audience rating meter) and Born of War (2014) (4.3 on IMDB; 35% on RT). I write “critically decimated” possibly unfairly because few critics either saw these films or reviewed them, understandably if you’ve perused their trailers.

Noomi Rapace, who has made a career of being tortured and slugged in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its two sequels, here plays Sam, a much-battered counter-terrorist expert/bodyguard whose last assignment was Middle-Eastern-based. Next, her employers have her become the so-called babysitter of a highly spoiled, newly minted billionaire heiress, Zoe (a not bad Sophie Nélisse), whose dad just died. Her possibly evil stepmother (Indira Varma) has requested a female companion for her charge because Zoe can be quite seductive: “Find someone she can’t fuck.”

Sam and Zoe don’t actually warm up to each other in the beginning, but once hired thugs try to kidnap the younger woman, the two gals find they really, really like each other. The former sees the lass as a replacement for someone in her past, and the latter wants is to be loved.

Now if my notes are correct, the couple winds up being chased to Morocco, where a nasty chap grinds his foot into Sam’s crotch in a hotel room during a prolonged fisticuffs, and Zoe is handcuffed and about to be raped in a van. Somewhere around here or possibly earlier, she calls up her step-mom, who asks: “Zoe, did you really kill that policeman?”

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Zoe (Sophie Nélisse) gets wigged out by Sam in Morocco. Credit: Netflix

My lips are sealed, but this poorly helmed, preposterously scripted, haphazardly edited flick also has poor Rapace often sporting the most unbecoming of hairdos. What are there no gay beauticians in Morocco? Truthfully though, the actress possibly took this part because she’s fearful of starring in roles that might bring her acclaim. As she’s noted, “I’m terrified of being too famous. What I’m really afraid of is that the audiences will go into the theater and not be able to forget that it’s me, that fame will stand in the way of my acting.” Noomi, a few more parts like this one, and no one will recognize you. (She, though, is set to portray the emotionally scarred Maria Callas next year. Well, maybe Onassis slaps her silly. After all that is a constant in her oeuvre.)

Surprisingly, Close was acquired by WestEnd Films for the company’s female audience brand, WeLove, a subsidiary which is geared toward “producing female-specific content and promoting female talent.” How oblivious can one be to the #MeToo movement? If Gloria Steinem were dead, she’d be turning in her grave.

Sophie Nélisse and Noomi Rapace ponder whether equality in the cinema means that female directors should be allowed to make films as schlocky as men’s. Credit: Netflix

(P.S. To add insult to injury, the final credits were not proofread. Note that Ait Abdellah Hadda is said to be a “Cotume Cleaner.”)

Brandon Judell has published in The Village Voice, The Advocate, and 50 or so other outlets. He is currently a lecturer at The City College of New York.

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