Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Russell Mulcahy
Stars: Thomas Cocquerel, Corey Large, William Moseley, Clive Standen, David Wenham, Callan Mulvey, David Hennessey, Isabel Lucas, Costas Mandylor, Grace Huang.
Tasmanian born Errol Flynn was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood in the 1930s and 40s, and the swashbuckling star of action films like Captain Blood and The Adventures Of Robin Hood dominated the box office. The charismatic and handsome movie icon also had a reputation as a hard-drinking cavalier womaniser and a hell raiser off screen. Flynn starred in some 60 movies and tv shows before he died in 1959 at the young age of just 50. But little is known about his early years before he found stardom.
In Like Flynn is a biopic that looks at his early years, and it depicts him as a seafaring adventurer, a man of action hunting for gold in the jungles of New Guinea, a drug runner and bare knuckles brawler. While the script from Corey Large and Steve Albert (The Ninth Passenger, etc), Mark Furmie (Terminus, etc), and Flynn’s grandson Luke, is based on Flynn’s own self-aggrandizing semi-autobiographical book Beam Ends, it is wise to approach all of this fanciful nonsense with a healthy dose of scepticism. And we don’t really learn all that much about the man himself.
Thomas Cocquerel (from Red Dog: True Blue, Table 19, etc) steps into the role of the young Flynn, even though he bears only a superficial resemblance. When we first see him, he is guiding a film crew through the jungles of New Guinea. They encounter a tribe of savage cannibals, and barely escape with their lives in an exciting scene that looks like a rip off of the early adventures of a younger Indiana Jones. Flynn himself finds a tattered treasure map on the body of a dead man, which he believes will lead him to a fortune in gold.
Back in Sydney in the early 1930s Flynn assembles a small crew to help him return to New Guinea and search for the gold. There is Rex (Corey Large), a former moonshiner and Dook Adams (William Moseley, from the tv series The Royals, but best known for playing Peter Pevensie in the Chronicles Of Narnia saga, etc), an effete Englishman who happens to be a crack shot. They set sail on the Sirocco, a yacht captained by the gruff and troubled veteran sea dog Charlie (Clive Standen, from tv series Vikings, etc,). The boat however used to belong to some Chinese opium smugglers, who set out in pursuit.
Meanwhile our intrepid adventurers sail up the east coast of Australia and eventually arrive in Townsville, where they run afoul of the town’s corrupt mayor and harbour master (a suitably slimy David Wenham).
In Like Flynn has been directed by Russell Mulcahy, who has helmed films like the cult favourite Highlander, etc. Mulcahy is a veteran of music videos in the 80s, having shot videos for the likes of Elton John and Bonnie Tyler, etc. His videos were stylish and visually inventive with lots of energy, so it is somewhat surprising that his direction here is workmanlike and lacks the same energy. The film also has some pacing issues. Mulcahy brings a Saturday afternoon matinee-like quality to this boys’ own adventure tale with a couple of rousing action sequences. And the boxing scenes in which Flynn is forced to take on Townsville’s champion are quite brutal in their execution. Some of the dialogue is cliched and unconvincingly delivered. Production values are decidedly low budget and B grade. The film has been nicely shot on location in Queensland though by Peter Holland (Cedar Boys, etc), whose widescreen lensing captures some gorgeous imagery, especially during the sea voyage.
Cocquerel brings the requisite enthusiasm and athleticism to the role, and he flexes his pecs with the same abandon as Chris Hemsworth. But, unfortunately, the character he plays could be any other reckless adventurer, not just a young Errol Flynn, as there is not much insight into the character. Wenham seems to be having fun as the moustache-twirling cartoonish villain of the piece. And Standen seems to be channelling Robert Shaw’s gruff Quint from the classic Jaws with his performance.
It’s not hard to compare Cocquerel’s performance to those other actors who have portrayed Flynn on screen, notably Jude Law in The Aviator and our own Guy Pearce in the 1993 drama Flynn, both of whom managed to capture the essence of the man at the height of his fame. It’s obvious that Flynn led an exciting and colourful life and his exploits would make for a fantastic biopic. However, his life deserves better than the so-so In Like Flynn.