Movies

What’s Going On With ‘Terminal,’ The Margot Robbie/Simon Pegg Joint You Probably Didn’t Know Came Out This Weekend?

RLJE Entertainment

Did you know a movie starring Margot Robbie and Simon Pegg came out this weekend? A movie that stars Robbie and Pegg and Mike Myers, in his only live-action movie appearance of the last eight years (“playing one of the sickest sickos in recent memory”)?

If you haven’t heard of Terminal, you’re not alone. I asked Brad Brevet, editor of BoxOfficeMojo.com, a website that tracks movie releases, about it, and he hadn’t heard of it. It’s not even in the site’s database, as the distributor (RLJE Films) isn’t reporting box office numbers.

Terminal, a debut feature from writer/director Vaughn Stein, a veteran assistant director and second unit director, seemed to fly well under the radar, and judging by the reviews it received, there was good reason for that. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave Terminal zero stars, calling it “one of the worst movies ever made.”

Writing for the Observer, crazy old Rex Reed said it was “frankly, unwatchable.”

David Edelstein for Vulture called it “Crayola noir.” Though it should be said, Terminal did have its share of defenders, from Richard Roeper, who said it had “never with a dull moment,” and Colin Covert from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, who seemed genuinely taken with it: “Every moment of Terminal engages the eye, and — unexpectedly — the mind.”

Robbie also produced, through her production company, LuckyChap Entertainment, and you wonder if the chance to be the star would be as big a motivating factor now as it was when Terminal was shot 2016, before Suicide Squad and I, Tonya, and Robbie’s upcoming role as Sharon Tate in Quentin Tarantino’s Manson Family movie.

In the hopes of simply understanding this film, which seems almost like it was deliberately hidden, I returned to my old standby feature, Plot Recreated With Reviews, in which we attempt to piece together an entire movie using nothing but expository quotes from (usually scathing) reviews. The way film critics revert to exposition when they’re bored has always intrigued me.

With Terminal in particular, which I gather combines references to Pulp Fiction and Alice and Wonderland (“a script that plays like something Quentin Tarantino upchucked after watching Blade Runner while reading Alice in Wonderland and ingesting too many hallucinogens,” according to Rolling Stone), it’s interesting to note that almost every review, either deliberately or through osmosis, sounds like a hard boiled detective novel.

Here we go… (the following descriptions all come from published reviews of Terminal):

The whole thing takes place in a deserted train station, hence the title Terminal. –Observer

Set in an anonymous city –Rolling Stone

…within an enclosed urban area known as the Precinct, –Boston Herald

that looks and feels like the soundstage it is, –Rolling Stone

Robbie plays Annie, –Chicago Sun-Times

a waitress at a diner called End of the Line, –RollingStone

serving sticky buns to a tubercular chain-smoking professor. –Observer

It’s all shadowy streets and vibrant skewed neon, a very naughty place just by the look of it. –Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Annie moonlights as a stripper, –RollingStone

…a half-naked pole dancer with green lips in a strip joint called the Blonde Rabbit. –Observer

Glowing green eyes, blinding teeth and strutting legs, –NY Times

Annie is pursuing a larger mission only she can envision, –Chicago Sun-Times

as well as anything else that will entrap the men who fall into her web. –RollingStone

No chump is her match, nor do you expect them to be. –Patriot Ledger

Annie seductively lures presupposed stupid men into her tangled web offering carnal goodies, then beating them to the thrust with her own phallic instruments. –Patriot Ledger [Editor’s Note: Holy shit]

Annie, cigarette in hand, makes a deal with a priest — or just a raspy, demon-voiced man sitting in the padre’s side of the confessional. –The Wrap

In her first ever conversation with Billy, he blithely throws out the word “naughty.” Annie simpers, skulking toward the diner counter. “Naughty? As in spank me gently, I’ve been a naughty girl?”

“Rape away!” she crows to him in another scene. “Pillage me!” –ThePlaylist

Somewhere above, an unseen voyeur watches on banks of television screens, his disembodied voice adding another layer of cringeworthy idiocy. –NY Times

[Annie] plans to make two hit men kill one another in order that she might work for a Mr. Big known as Mr. Franklin, –Boston Herald

who puts out contracts anonymously via voice-modulated phone calls, briefcases stashed in train terminal storage lockers and other tricks you may be able to imagine for yourself. –Hollywood Reporter

Simon Pegg shows up as a suicidal professor, -Rolling Stone

a professorial weenie dressed like Vincent Van Gogh in a red-flecked beard and a large, woolen overcoat, –TheWrap

looking for a train to throw himself under. -Rolling Stone

With nowhere else to go, Pegg’s Bill ends up in the depot’s diner, where he finds a welcoming ear in Robbie’s waitress. But for some unknown reason, she encourages him to do himself in instead of talking him out of it. -Patriot Ledger

The two engage in a game of sophisticated verbal cat-and-mouse. She claims coyly to have “an unquenchable blood lust for darkness and depravity.” –Boston Herald

“You want my advice?” says Annie to Bill. “Just … end it. There are more ways to end your life than there are ways to live it.” -Chicago Sun-Times [Editor’s Note: *sound of a bong* Nice, bro *cough, cough*]

While waiting for the train on the platform, Bill had earlier met the “night supervisor,” aka the station cleaner (Mike Myers), an old man who asks a lot of questions, –Boston Herald

who likes whistling “Danny Boy.” -Rolling Stone

Mike Myers does his Austin Powers accent, randomly appearing in scenes as some sort of cosmic street vendor/janitor, quick to dispense wisdom on train station platforms or bring the mop following a bloody execution. –BirthMoviesDeath

Meanwhile, father-son-type hit men Vincent (Dexter Fletcher) and Alfie (Max Irons) wait in a fleabag hotel for their instructions from Mr. Franklin, -Boston Herald

an edgy wait that lands them — like Bill — in Annie’s diner. Where Alfred hits it off with her, Vince quickly acquires a serious distaste for her lascivious come-ons to his love-struck partner. -Patriot Ledger

She tells hunky Alfred (Max Irons) to stay (“I need someone to butter my buns for”) and irascible Vince (Dexter Fletcher) to shoo. –TheWrap

It won’t be hard to figure that Annie is seducing the doltish Alfred for a reason. –Rolling Stone

Alf falls for her, calling her “sugarplum” and scolding Vince when he uses less respectful nicknames. –Hollywood Reporter

So we have a janitor, two assassins, and a dying schoolteacher, tortured and annihilated by Annie, who turns out to be a hired killer herself, –Observer

a Cockney-cadenced waitress-stripper-hitwoman… -The Wrap

…wearing a black Cleopatra wig who chains a victim to a bed for reasons never explained. -Observer

She spends several scenes done up in sheer lingerie… –ThePlaylist

[and] gets a hastily-sketched backstory (spoiler alert: like every other male fantasy of an interesting woman, it includes child rape!) -ThePlaylist

You don’t know who anybody is or what they’re saying because 90 percent of the dialogue is incoherent gibberish like “Hello, handsome, dangerous men” and “Who says mystery is a lost art?” -Observer

“There is a place like no other on Earth … to survive it, you need to be as mad as a hatter.” -Chicago Sun-Times

…discussing death, the nature of freedom, and the notion of the “pathetic fallacy” –Vulture

…repeated references to “Alice in Wonderland” and various rabbit motifs… -Patriot Ledger

a valise (a la “Pulp Fiction”) carrying mysterious import. -Patriot Ledger

Stein keeps bouncing between extreme close-ups of Robbie’s eyes and lips, unsure what to do next. -Hollywood Reporter

There is a great deal of trickery, scheming, backstabbing and betrayal among the players, along with the sense that expecting entirely consistent logic would be a waste of time. Repeated references to Alice in Wonderland warn that everyone in the story, including those of us watching it, have fallen down the rabbit hole into a seamless other world whose gritty idiosyncrasies we all must learn as well as we can. -Minneapolis Star-Tribune

the final act of Terminal is (without exaggeration) twenty-plus minutes of Margot Robbie explaining her waitress/stripper/abused heart’s revenge to all the men who surround her, cackling like some sort of lost Bond villain before dispensing with horror movie castrations and lobotomies. -BirthMoviesDeath

The third act is flat-out nutso. One can imagine Robbie, Myers et al., breaking into laughter after hearing “Cut!” — not out of disrespect for the material, but out of sheer giddiness for having the opportunity to try something so audacious. -Chicago Sun-Times

When [Mr. Franklin’s] identity is finally revealed, it’s via a gag straight out of The Usual Suspects. -HollywoodReporter

Is it weird that reading 30 reviews of a movie almost everyone hated sort of makes me want to see it?

×