Budget Bond: Dominic Cooper in spy caper Stratton

Austin Stowell as Hank and Dominic Cooper as John Stratton in Stratton

BASED on a series of novels by former Special Boat Service commando Duncan Falconer, Stratton is a globe-trotting spy caper that ricochets between Iran, Ukraine, Rome, Uzbekistan and London.

Long on ambition and short on thrills or invention, Simon West's pedestrian picture is James Bond on a budget.

The script, co-written by Falconer and Warren Davis II, resembles a checklist of 007 motifs: an emotionally scarred hero, a megalomaniacal nemesis with a loopy plan to kill millions, car chases, gadgets, gratuitous destruction and groansome one-liners.

During the lacklustre opening set-piece, which sees the titular agent swim up a water pipe to gain access to an Iranian pharmaceutical factory, one of his support team handily notes the possibility that he could be chewed to death by an intake pump.

"That would suck," predictably quips the underling.

The film does indeed suck in places, with thin characterisation and a wooden supporting performance from Danish actress Connie Nielsen as an M-lite MI6 chief, whose clipped English accent has a distinct Scandinavian lilt.

Sadly, Dominic Cooper doesn't invest his gung-ho operative with charisma or emotional depth, and sexual tension with Gemma Chan's hi-tech Miss Moneypenny barely simmers.

Stunt sequences unfold almost entirely in isolation from the hustle and bustle of the real world, including a night time pursuit through cobbled Italian streets, so there is nary a possibility of innocent bystanders being caught in crossfire.

West's film is licenced to kill time, and little else.

Special Boat Service commander John Stratton (Cooper) and his American partner Sergeant Marty Sturges (Tyler Hoechlin) are double-crossed during a mission in the Middle East.

Consequently, rogue Russian agent Grigory Barofski (Thomas Kretschmann) acquires "one of the most lethal airborne pathogens" in the world, codenamed Satan Snow.

The stolen virus is weaponised and Barofski prepares to slaughter an entire capital city using canisters affixed to four drones built by his contact, Greco (Rinat Khismatouline).

John and his Navy SEALs partner, Petty Officer Hank Monroe (Austin Stowell), give chase with support from a team of MI6 technical wizards comprising Aggy (Chan), Cummings (Tom Felton) and Spinks (Jake Fairbrother).

However, a traitor in the ranks exposes Stratton and everyone he holds dear including his surrogate father (Derek Jacobi), a salty seadog with a penchant for filthy-minded limericks, who lives on a boat on the Thames.

Stratton won't be leaving audiences shaken or stirred. The one quantum of solace is that West's film keeps its running time as trim as its leading man.

Cooper cycles through a full repertoire of constipated facial expressions as he clashes with Kretschmann's non-descript villain, building to an anti-climactic final showdown.

Choppy editing fails to generate dramatic momentum and a solitary twist is telegraphed in advance in capital letters.

Rating: Two stars

STRATTON (15, 94 mins) Thriller/Action/Romance.
Starring: Dominic Cooper, Austin Stowell, Gemma Chan, Connie Nielsen, Thomas Kretschmann, Tom Felton, Jake Fairbrother, Tyler Hoechlin, Derek Jacobi, Rinat Khismatouline.
Director: Simon West.

Released: September 1

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