It’s anchored by a strong performance from Noomi Rapace, but Netflix’s Close is the kind of movie you’ve seen many times before – and might not want to see again.
Between the middling actioner Unlocked and Netflix’s own original productions Bright and What Happened to Monday, Swedish actress Noomi Rapace seems to be making a point these days of playing kick-*** women saddled with a variety of emotional traumas. Her new venture, which debuts globally on Netflix this Friday, is Vicky Jewson’s Close, a fictional story about a kick-*** woman saddled with emotional traumas based, at least a little bit, on the life and career of Jacquie Davis, one of the world’s leading female bodyguards.
We’re introduced to Rapace’s character, here called Sam, in a typical Middle Eastern prologue in which she defends some quivering journos from ISIS or whoever, and it’s immediately apparent that she’s tough and resourceful and takes no ****. She also smokes a lot and morosely cleans her guns at the table while ignoring all her voicemails – including ones from an estranged daughter and a colleague (Eoin Macken) with whom she evidently has history.
While close protection “isn’t usually her kind of work”, she’s nonetheless summoned to take care of Zoe (Sophie Nélisse), the heiress of a mining fortune who has a strained relationship with her deeply suspicious step-mother (Indira Varma, staggeringly gorgeous as ever) and needs a female bodyguard because she keeps ******* the male ones. Zoe’s real mother committed suicide when she was young and she has spent the years since cultivating a variety of unhealthy habits and a bitter resentment for her coddled life of stock-watching and luxury. I think you can see where this is going.
Before the inevitable bonding in life-or-death circumstances, however, Zoe and Sam are holed up in a state-of-the-art Moroccan safehouse with a variety of modern convenience features, such as CCTV, automatic secure doors and shotgun shells hidden in the walls, all of which is controlled by a tablet that for some reason Zoe has possession of. I’m not an expert in the bodyguard business, obviously, but perhaps it isn’t a particularly good idea to give the rebellious young lady control of the security system designed to protect her. But, details.
Sam is smugly informed by the safehouse’s head of security, Alik (Akin Gazi), that “we don’t have female CPOs in Morocco,” thus establishing the expected woman-in-a-man’s-world subtext that never really goes anywhere, not even once the safehouse is attacked and Sam and Zoe are forced to go on the run as two white women – one a saucy blonde in skimpy eveningwear, no less – through the busy marketplaces of Muslim-majority Morocco.
A lot of Close goes downhill after leaving that safehouse, to be honest, which was impressively shot and set up expectations of what would have been perhaps a more interesting film – a taut home-invasion thriller full of technologically-inspired modern genre twists, but that idea is abandoned very quickly and is never really broached again. What Close becomes instead is a rather derivative vehicle with some decent action and the odd bit of convincing character drama, but nothing else to really recommend it beyond Rapace’s dependably all-in leading performance.
That performance actually gets better as things go on, which keeps Close watchable even when everything else starts to become rote and predictable. There’s a fine moment of beach-set self-loathing in which every teary-eyed tug on a cigarette draws you further into this woman’s evidently tortured mind, and the already-discussed prospect of further films chronicling Jacquie Davis’s escapades seems quite inviting. Then you remember that this first attempt isn’t very good, and probably forget all about the idea.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.