Tuesday, 16 July 2024

‘The Retirement Plan’ heist caper; ‘Spy Ops’ docuseries


Billing “The Retirement Plan” as an action comedy might be a stretch, but there is something quite amusing about the ineptness of so many henchmen of a crime lord unable to fulfill what seems an easy enough assignment.

As the story opens, a man and a woman are making a getaway from an apparent heist of what turns out to be the film’s MacGuffin, the object or device that serves merely as a trigger for the plot.

In this case, it happens to be a flash drive that belongs supposedly to Donnie (Jackie Earle Haley), a crime boss with a hair-trigger temper which might be the result of him having to report to his psychotic superior (Grace Byers).

Jimmy (Jordan Johnson-Hinds) and his wife Ashley (Ashley Greene) realize that they have just bought themselves a monumental pile of trouble with this theft and need an escape plan.

Ashley hides the flash drive in their young daughter Sarah’s (Thalia Campbell) backpack and puts her on a flight to the Cayman Islands with a note to locate a man named Matt (or Jim?), who turns out to be her estranged father (Nicolas Cage).

Holding Jimmy hostage, Donnie tells Sarah that she will be accompanied by his Shakespeare-loving henchman Bobo (Ron Perlman) and another thug to retrieve the flash drive unless someone or everyone will die.

Of course, Matt doesn’t realize that he has a granddaughter and he’s not well equipped to take care of her since he’s retired from his government work and savors the beach bum lifestyle.

Unknown to Ashley when she arrives at her father’s beachside home with Bobo and the goon is that Matt has been hiding his special skills, namely that he’s a retired special forces soldier trained as an assassin.

When Donnie’s goon ends up dead, Bobo kidnaps Sarah, which leads to the unlikely formation of a bond when the young girl’s affinity for reading “Othello” triggers an interesting dynamic with her Shakespeare-quoting captor.

Aside from Matt easily killing Donnie’s successive wave of goons showing up in the Caymans, other characters involve Matt’s old boss (Lynn Whitfield) and her seemingly duplicitous right-hand (Joel David Moore) getting in on the action.

Even some political intrigue comes into view when a mysterious powerful figure (Rick Fox) has a great interest in the flash drive that may propel his political ambitions for high office.

In many respects, “The Retirement Plan” is quite conventional as an action picture with Nicolas Cage channeling his inner rage in a most effective way of killing countless bad guys that would otherwise hurt his family.

At a nicely moving and relatively swift pace, this action film offers some welcome humor in unusual ways. Arguably, best of all is Bobo’s comically awkward phone calls with Donnie in which he’s always at a loss to explain how every attempt to kill Matt proves to be a failure.

If not easily found at a local cinema, “The Retirement Plan” seems almost certainly to end up on a streaming service in relatively short order. A pickup by Netflix or Amazon seems possible, and it will offer a fun diversion.


An eight-part documentary series on Netflix, “Spy Ops” might be the thing for anyone interested in a perspective on real world events ranging from an assassination plot on Pope John Paul II to the initial intrusion into Afghanistan following the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001.

The first episode is “Operation Jawbreaker,” when CIA operatives land in the part of Afghanistan under the control of the Northern Alliance, the mortal enemies of the hated and ruthless Taliban.

The leader of the Northern Alliance is Ahmad Shah Massoud, the biggest enemy of the Taliban seen from archival footage since he meets an untimely death.

Narrator for a good part of the episode is the late Gary Schroen, the Jawbreaker Team Leader for the CIA. He reports that it was known that Osama bin Laden was the leader of al-Qaeda and hiding somewhere in Afghanistan.

An interesting part of this episode is the reminder that American withdrawal two years ago has resulted in the “horror of the Taliban enveloping the country” even more completely than it did before 9/11.

The second episode “Operation Just Cause” is the story of how America came to invade Panama in order to depose its strongman General Manuel Noriega, who was trafficking drugs and had once been on the CIA payroll for a long time.

Noriega, nicknamed “Pineapple Face” for his pockmarked facial features, is portrayed as a double-dealing opportunist working for the CIA and selling U.S. intelligence secrets to Cuba.

There’s a news clip of Dan Rather reporting on the United Nations General Assembly deploring the invasion of Panama as a “flagrant violation of international law.”

The “Operation Pimlico” tale of MI6 orchestrating the extraction of a Soviet double agent from Moscow is fascinating like a Jack Ryan or James Bond spy story.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

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