The latest in a long line of post-Tarantino imitations, Terminal paints its setting in broad strokes. The train station where the film’s action takes place abounds in retro-modern colors that are redolent of so many 1990s-era industrial music videos. It’s a generic space occupied by stilted characters: two hitmen (Dexter Fletcher and Max Irons) who trade wince-inducing banter while waiting for new assignments; a terminally ill teacher (Simon Pegg) who’s looking to speed up the shuffling off of his mortal coil; and a disabled janitor (Mike Myers) who just might be more shrewd and observant than he lets on. Interacting with them all is Annie (Margot Robbie), a woman who’s introduced via a series of images that, in the way they reduce her to flashing, emerald eyes and pursing ruby lips, lamely prop her up as a femme fatale.
In fact, Brian De Palma’s Femme Fatale stands out as the closest analog to this film, as Annie is constantly slipping on various disguises as she seduces and double-crosses those who dwell throughout this terminal at the heart of an anonymous city. Yet the comparison to De Palma’s freewheeling, deconstructionist take on noir does this lugubrious thriller no favors, as writer-director Vaughn Stein doesn’t so much as dust off the cobwebs from the tropes he recycles throughout. Terminal’s actors are awkward and stiff in trying to project hard-boiled cool, and all while delivering lines—from “Hello, handsome, dangerous men” to “Hello, beautiful, semi-clad girl”—that sound as if they had been passed multiple times through an online translation tool.
Even Robbie, a reliably intense actor and a master of the cat-who-ate-the-canary grin, is unable to fill the gaps left by the film’s unambitious screenplay. With the exception of her initial interactions with Pegg’s Bill, Annie offers nothing deeper than perfunctory femme-fatale poses. Chasing after a quick and painless death, Bill picks up on Annie’s true nature and discusses the possibility of her expediting his demise. As Bill and Annie mull the pros and cons of his plan, the film suddenly feels uniquely sardonic and almost poignant. But then another hollow twist kills the mood, reducing even this exchange to more grist for the mill of Stein’s lifeless genre gamesmanship.