This isn’t the kind of movie I’d normally review. The only reason I’m putting pen to paper is because it didn’t have any reviews online, and I figured someone had to do the responsible thing and warn potential audiences.
In a proper world, A Common Man would play midnight screenings and would be mocked ruthlessly by “fans” throwing rice at the screen and quoting the “dialogue.”
The only reason you’re considering watching this film is because of Ben Kingsley’s name on the marquee, and that’s not a bad one. Horrible career choices aside, Kingsley always manages to be entertaining. The man has an Oscar, for God’s sake, and a deserved one, not one of those Denzel Washington-in-Training Day Oscars.
The story is one that has become tired and treadworn: Kingsley plays the titular and otherwise nameless “man,” some kind of mastermind who holds Colombo, Sri Lanka (Sri Lanka!) hostage when he plants bombs around the city and calls a government inspector with a list of demands. It appears to be politically motivated: He wants four political prisoners released or else the bombs go off.
The police are baffled! “He’s calling from multiple cell phones!” it’s declared when they… analyze a voice print? How will we track him down? “Bring in a computer hacker!” The cops are led by a glazed-over Ben Cross, who adds additional street cred as the other “white guy” in this film. The rest of the cast is all locals, obviously a concession to getting this movie made in country (Asia Digital Entertainment is the production company), with Kingsley and Cross brought in to give it star power. (The film, it should be noted, is an English remake of an earlier — and much more popular — Indian film made by the same director. In other words: A craven yet failed money grab.)
Phew, none of this works at all. Kingsley gives it his all here, but he has the luxury of acting in the film almost exclusively by himself. For most of the movie he’s on a rooftop somewhere barking orders into a phone. Cross isn’t so lucky. He’s surrounded by incompetence, including a hapless second-in-command (Patrick Rutnam) who seems to have been cast because he’s somebody’s son. The kid can’t even get his uniform tucked into his pants, for God’s sake. Kingsley does have to deal (via phone) with an “ace reporter,” a real gem of an actress (Numaya Siriwardena) who he uses as a pawn to cover his explosive antics around town. She’s got real spunk, as witnessed when Kingsley calls her, seemingly at random, with a big tip that a federal building is about to blow up: “We have a tip line for these kinds of calls sir… oh, wait, where’s the big news happening?”
The mind reels.
The ending is absolutely awful, the final revelation about Kingsley’s motivations driving, well, the title of the film and nothing much else. The last scene stands as one of the least satisfying denouements I’ve ever encountered.
The movie’s tagline is “No justice. No peace.” I couldn’t agree more.