film & game reviews, the retro way.
Based on French comedy Envoyés Très Spéciaux from 2009, Special Correspondents stars Eric Bana and Ricky Gervais as a radio news journalist and his sound technician who fail to turn up to Ecuador to report on a story so decide to invent a bigger one while hiding out back in the city.
Released on Netflix in 2016, Special Correspondents didn't receive the best reviews and it failed to make much of an impact. One of the film's biggest assets, its cast, certainly did appeal to a lot of people as fans of Ricky Gervais' previous work were understandably interested in seeing something new from the comedian, who also wrote and directed the film. This was also the same year that David Brent: Life On The Road came out so it made sense to piggy-back on it, although that movie would only be released a year later in the US and was not a commercial hit either.
This film certainly has a promising concept: two guys making up an escalating war abroad without even going anywhere, letting the lie build to a fake hostage situation. It's a funny idea but French humour doesn't always translate all that well to Hollywood and, more often than not, a clever setup ends up not working with a much different style of filmmaking or storytelling, and this is the case here.
There are definitely some enjoyable aspects to Special Correspondents. Bana and Gervais clearly have a great time throughout, the over-the-top growth of the made-up story and the impact it has makes for some amusing gags and the script gives the cast some fun banter to play around with. Unfortunately, while the fake Ecuador-set plot becomes bigger and sillier, the film itself stagnates quite a bit before seemingly running out of ideas altogether.
A subplot involving Ian's (Gervais) wife Eleanor, played by Vera Farmiga, should have been much funnier and less needlessly convoluted, especially near the end. Farmiga herself feels a little miscast here as, while she does capture how intimidating and fame-hungry her character is, Eleanor is too one-dimensional to inspire anything beyond a cold demeanor. It would have been good to see Ian and Frank (Bana) really get a taste of their own medicine at the end but, although they do get their comeuppance in some way, they're never likeable or charming enough to make the happy ending all that satisfying.
Some good ideas, most of which can also be found in the original film, and a handful of funny moments and sharp lines but, ultimately, Special Correspondents is an underwhelming comedy that never truly gets off the ground and ends up feeling just as hollow and unconvincing as the story Ian and Frank come up with.