According to our friends at Production Weekly (via FirstShowing), Patrick Alessandrin, the director of District 13: Ultimatum, has replaced Simon West (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Con Air) to make Protection, an action thriller about a ‘disgraced former Special Forces officer’ who goes on a mission to rescue a judge’s daughter from Mexican gangs (the description didn’t specify, but my best guess to fill in the gap would be that she’s kidnapped). In addition, Clive Owen has replaced Paul Walker as the star. To me, this project has automatically jumped leaps and bounds in pedigree. Both director and star are interesting improvements upon who was originally attached, and it looks like Alessandrin is attempting to introduce himself to American audiences that don’t like reading subtitles in the exact same way that Pierre Morel did with Taken, as both films are about retired men possessing a special set of skills who must rescue/protect young women.
Owen has had a spotty career attempting to become an action star. Shoot ’Em Up was silly fun but ultimately forgettable, and The International was just a mess. But Alessandrin proved himself to be just as capable of an action director as Morel with his District 13 sequel, so maybe he’s just the talent needed to cement Owen as, say, the high-cult alternative to Jason Statham.
But from my perspective, I don’t understand why Owen wants to become an action star so badly. He might not have the greatest range of any actor, but the man has a damn fine compelling way of delivering dialogue if there ever was one. He commanded every moment he had on screen in his Oscar-nominated role in Mike Nichols’ Closer, was an intriguing supporting villain in Inside Man, and even though it wasn’t a very good movie, I found it fun to watch him deliver Tony Gilroy’s dense dialogue in Duplicity last year. Between oddball choices like the tearjerker The Boys Are Back (he just carries too much of a cynical weight to be in a film like that) and his frequent gun-toting, Owen continues to put himself in roles that seem out of his element for whatever reason. Maybe Alessandrin can deliver us a solid action movie that uses the best of Owen’s talents.