Men in Black: International (12A)

Men-in-Black-international-quad-poster-600x450

Director: F. Gary Gray

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, Rafe Spall, Kumail Nanjiani and Rebecca Ferguson.

⭐⭐

The good guys dress in black, remember that? Yes, it’s 22 years since the first Men in Black film crash-landed onto cinema screens and introduced us to Agents Kay and Jay with the perfectly cast Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith bouncing off each other with electric chemistry and effortless charm as they saved the world from aliens.

This time, the only acknowledgment of the dynamic duo is in an oil painting depicting their finest hour, as the series starts afresh with Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson taking the leading roles and applying the self-assured camaraderie they’d created in Thor: Ragnarok to decent effect here, backed up by Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Rafe Spall and Rebecca Ferguson.

As a child, Molly (Tessa Thompson) witnesses an alien arriving on earth and the mysterious MIB neuralizing (flashy thing) her parents and wiping their memories. 20 years later and fuelled by a desire to prove there’s extra-terrestrial life on earth, she successfully blags her way into the MIB offices and onto their team. Her first mission is to assist Agent H (Hemsworth) as he babysits a member of an alien royal family. This doesn’t go too well as the alien is assassinated for a planet destroying super-weapon in his possession, leading to fears the MIB have a mole within their ranks. 

The rather simple story is one big black hole devoid of charm or substance and relies far too heavily on Hemsworth and Thompson to bail it out of mediocrity, which they just about manage to do. Their confident, easy double-act is perhaps the only highlight in a film that never quite hits light speed. There isn’t one memorable set piece and this is coming from the man that gave us the ludicrously absurd, yet guilty pleasure, Fast & Furious 8, F. Gary Gray. Here, Gray gives free reign to some of his actors to improvise and, although it’s occasionally funny, some of the petulant squabbling between characters wears thin.

Emma Thompson’s hardly in it, Liam Neeson can’t decide whether he’s Irish or English and Rebecca Ferguson brings new meaning to arms dealer in a role that finishes just as she’s becoming interesting. Kumail Nanjiani has fun voicing Pawny, a comedy sidekick and Rafe Spall’s bureaucratic Agent C proves a formidable foil to H and it would’ve been good to have seen more of him.

30 minutes longer than it needed to be, coming in at just under two hours, Men in Black: International is a galactic mess of a film. Strong performances from the two leads aside the tenuous story, forced humour and surprising lack of action means this reboot should be kicked into a galaxy far, far away.

Men in Black: International is out now in UK cinemas.

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Ben Peyton View All →

Film critic. YouTube channel www.youtube.com/benpeytonreviews
Twitter @BenPeyton007
Former actor. Band of Brothers, Emmerdale, Holby City and a regular (PC Ben Hayward) in The Bill.
Voiceover artist with Rhubarb Voices.

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