IT’S FRIDAY FILM Wham, bam thank you John Hamm, who is gripping in The Negotiator, says BRIAN VINER 

The Negotiator

There is a touch of Cary Grant in North By Northwest about Jon Hamm in The Negotiator, a gripping, pacy thriller set mostly in Beirut in 1982, co-starring Rosamund Pike.

The former Mad Men star (right) plays Mason Skiles, an ex-diplomat whose early-Seventies posting in the Lebanese capital came to a tragically abrupt and violent end.

A decade later he is back in the U.S., boozing too much and wasting his negotiating skills on local labour issues, until a message arrives; the CIA needs him back in Beirut and won’t take no for an answer.

 

There is a touch of Cary Grant in North By Northwest about Jon Hamm in The Negotiator, a gripping, pacy thriller set mostly in Beirut in 1982, co-starring Rosamund Pike, writes Brian Viner

The local CIA chief has been kidnapped, and his captors will only exchange him for one of the world’s most wanted Palestinian terrorists. For some reason — and it doesn’t matter that we guess it before the big reveal — Mason is required to broker the deal.

He soon finds himself well out of his depth, forced to rely on innate charm and resourcefulness, in ways that reminded me a little of Grant’s dishy, dishevelled Roger Thornhill in Hitchcock’s 1959 classic.

The difference is that Mason has been plunged into a proper sectarian nightmare, which is not eased even when he bonds with his attractive CIA handler (Pike).

The horrors of Beirut in the grip of civil war are very well evoked by director Brad Anderson, and Bourne writer Tony Gilroy has produced an intelligent, plausible screenplay.

 

Pictured: Rosamund Pike in The Negotiator

 

Dog Days (12A) Verdict: No wags in this tail

Dog Days is a desperately lame romantic comedy set in Los Angeles, in which the lives of random strangers become entwined mainly because they all take their beloved canines to the same vet.

The interlinking of numerous disparate characters in a romcom is hardly new; Richard Curtis did it 15 years ago in Love Actually.

Unfortunately, any originality in making dogs the catalyst is undermined by the lumpen writing and direction, in what is effectively a strained attempt at Woof Actually.

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