Opening February 21, 2019
Directed by: Neil Burger
Writing credits: Jon Hartmere
Principal actors: Bryan Cranston, Kevin Hart, Nicole Kidman, Julianna Margulies, Aja Naomi King, Golshifteh Farahani, Tate Donovan
Whether a remake of the successful 2011 French comedy The Untouchables (Ziemlich Beste Freunde) was really necessary might be debatable but I enjoyed the new American version at least as much as the original. The Untouchable is based on the biography of a wealthy French aristocrat. Left paralyzed from the neck down after an accident, Phil depends on a personal aide 24/7. No one lasts long in this job. Of all applicants, he hires the one that doesn't even want the job: an African immigrant, who just came to the interview on the insistence of his parole officer. The chances that a rich Parisian and a poor immigrant from the "Banlieue" would have any dealings, leave alone develop a friendship, are fairly slim.
This fairytale aspect of the story was part of the success of the film. For the remake, the story was moved to New York City, to a billionaire’s Park Avenue penthouse (Bryan Cranston as Phil); a few characters and side plots were cut and won't be missed. Still, with 125 minutes the new version does run even longer than the original; less would have been more. Phil's love life takes a different path here and comes so much as a surprise that we are cheated out of seeing sparks flying.
Phil's personal assistant (Nicole Kidman) is dumbstruck when Dell (Kevin Hart), an African American with a criminal record gets the job. He isn't interested in any job and especially not in this one. But after all, he needs money and the mother of his son has just kicked him out; this job provides him with a place to sleep. Dell is refreshingly unintimidated by the posh surroundings, and certainly not one to pussyfoot around his boss. Political correctness? Not his strong side either. His straightforwardness, 'can-do' attitude and deadpan humor (great performance by Hart) are exactly what Phil needs to get back his zest for life. The upside for Dell is to learn responsibility and regain self-esteem. Hart and Cranston are perfectly matched and very, very funny. Their chemistry carries the film. (Carola A.)