Thursday, May 02, 2024

Chief of Station: Aaron Eckhart’s Next CIA Movie

Many movies depict CIA officers as the bad guys, but in the real world, several CIA station chiefs have been assassinated while serving their country. Tragically, Farrah Malloy will be the next to die in the line of duty. However, her widowed husband is also a CIA officer, with the know-how to find her killers and extract retribution in Jesse V. Johnson’s Chief of Station, which releases tomorrow in theaters and on-demand.

Ben Malloy just ran circles around the FSB (the former KGB) intercepting a courier drop on the streets of Budapest, where his wife is Chief of Station. Then he met her for their anniversary, but it was interrupted by an explosion. Supposedly, it was a gas leak, but Malloy soon suspects otherwise. Since the agency’s general inspector clearly has it in for him, Malloy only trusts Dez, his wife’s former colleague in the cyber division, with his findings.

Technically, he also trusts Nick, who will also soon start working in agency IT, but Malloy does not want him involved. Of course, the mysterious terrorists will inevitably target the son to get to the father.

Much like Aaron Eckhart’s last CIA movie,
The Bricklayer, Chief of Station starts with a promising premise, but quickly reverts to standard issue payback VOD action. In this case, Chief is worse, because it chickens out quite cowardly, by making the FSB “friendly” rivals rather than the true bad guys. Just ask Ukraine how the FSB really conducts their business. This is not the mid-1990s. Audiences are craving Russian and CCP Chinese villains, because they want to finally see payback for their oppressive crimes. Instead, the producers apparently cared more about sales in some of most despotic territories on earth.

It is a shame, because Eckhart has the perfect cerebral grittiness for a vengeance-seeking CIA officer like Malloy. Olga Kurylenko has instant action credibility Krystyna Kowerski, an agent Malloy’s wife used to handle. However, screenwriter George Mahaffey literally drops her into the film from out of nowhere, after a full hour of Malloy lone-wolfing, just in time to save his butt.

Of course, Daniel Bernhardt has even more action cred as Kharon, the shadowy cabal’s triggerman, but he hardly has any backstory or dialogue. Nick Moran is colorfully sleazy playing Evgeny, the FSB station chief, but the character is such a cruel insult to all the desperate Ukrainians fighting for their freedom and their lives. Laetitia Eido definitely looks like a woman of intrigue playing Farrah (which is probably why she previously appeared in
Liaison and Citadel), but she never really has the time to do anything notable, besides getting blown up.

Johnson has helmed some terrific action films, like
Avengement, Accident Man, and The Debt Collector[s], but there is nothing special about the fight scenes and shootouts in Chief of Station. The execution is just okay, while the geopolitical twists are highly suspect. Not recommended, Chief of Station opens tomorrow (5/3) in Los Angeles, at Laemmle Town Center 5.