Diamond smugglers, drug cartels, the CIA, each subject alone garners immediate interest in most film-goers so throwing them all into a pot and stirring must make for the most intriguing covert thriller ever made, right? That certainly seems to have been the line of thinking from writer/director Thomas Gulamerian. Courier-X, which carries the riveting tagline “The film the CIA tried to stop”, deals with a diamond smuggler who’s recruited by the CIA to help with a cover up before a journalist, Gary Webb, blows the lid off of the Agency’s connection to the Nicaraguan drug trade. Heading into deep conspiracy theory territory the film also deals with the CIA’s connection to the explosion that brought down TWA flight 800 in 1996.
That summary sells me on this film, it’s a damn good premise that has the potential to be a classic espionage thriller…even if it begins to tread into tinfoil hat territory. Unfortunately, the idea is as far as the film gets. Clocking in at 2 hours and 12 minutes the film seems about 40 minutes longer than it needs to be, with three or four sub-plots that could have provided the extra film to be cut. The idea seems to have been a slow burn but the end result, to be blunt, is just plain boring. Sitting through the unnatural acting and odd choices in dialogue for payoffs that never come. Confusion abounds as well, mostly due to the superfluous story-lines and overflowing cup of characters. The film is sold on Udo Kier, one of his generations most prolific character actors, but the true lead is Bron Boier who plays diamond smuggler Trenlin Polenski. The character begins in an interesting arc as it follows him from one end to another on a diamond smuggling run, as a side note I had no idea how gastrointestinal the art of drug smuggling is…let’s just say it begins with him stuffing a passport and cash into a lubed up condom (you can guess the end result of that) and ends with him in his apartment chugging a saline laxative while throwing a strainer in his toilet. Yeah, it got real in the first 20. Sadly, the film proceeded through with the excitement of a monotone lecture on the mating habits of grass hoppers. Boier, who may have been playing the character as simply apathetic, just seemed uncharismatic and not very interested in being there. The film itself was shot in a very strange dichotomy beautiful scenic shots coupled with camera work which seemed more at home in a show or film you’d find on Cinemax after Midnight.
Courier-X suffers from a number of maladies but the root problem appears to be an unfocused approach to a complicated storyline. Had the script narrowed to just one aspect of the story, say the CIA/Cartel connection…perhaps making it the Gary Webb story instead of focusing on the Polenski character, then we would have had something worth seeing that could have really been something. I truly think this story, however truthful or full of conjecture it may be, is more than worthy of the cinematic treatment. Courier-X however, misses the mark.
1.5 out of 5 Guttenbergs