Review: Phillip Noyce’s FAST CHARLIE – A Well Constructed Hitman Thriller With Pierce Brosnan

4 out of 5 stars

Fast Charlie is a lean and mean thriller starring Pierce Brosnan as a hitman seeking revenge. Directed by Phillip Noyce, the film is a stripped-back, no-frills affair that delivers the requisite action and also some strong performances. Having helmed the likes of Clear And Present Danger, The Bone Collector, The Saint and Salt shows that Noyce knows his way around a star-driven thriller and Brosnan has made a career as a stoic man with a gun – so the duo make for a winning combination. The addition of the late James Caan adds an extra touch of class to this entertaining crime pic.  

Brosnan plays Charlie Swift, an ageing fixer (read: hitman) for James Caan’s mob boss, Stan. When a competitor takes out Stan and the rest of his crew, Charlie sets out on a trail of revenge. Charlie is assisted by Marcie (Morena Baccarin) the ex-wife of a man that Charlie has ‘fixed’ for Stan. Marcie tags along on the dangerous ride in the hope of securing some of the money she is owed by her deceased ex and a burgeoning friendship forms between her and the ageing hitman.

Written by Richard Wenk (The Equaliser) and based on the novel Gun Monkeys by Victor Gischler, Fast Charlie is directed with efficiency and precision by Phillip Noyce. He keeps proceedings tight, making every scene count and eschewing the bloat that permeates many films today – no surprise considering that he helmed the taught and twisty Dead Calm. Noyce takes Wenk’s screenplay and delivers punchy action while ensuring that Fast Charlie includes plenty of strong characterisation alongside well-timed humour. Fast Charlie has the vibe of a modern-day Western, as Brosnan’s hitman rides into town seeking retribution from those who have wronged him. You could look at Baccarin’s Marcie as the damsel in distress (although she’s anything but) and there’s even a showdown against the bad guys in a saloon. It’s all familiar without feeling like a cliche.  

At the centre of Fast Charlie is Pierce Brosnan’s performance. An actor equally at home with comedy, drama and action, Brosnan has decades of skill banked – and this makes him perfect at playing the world-weary Charlie Swift. He brings his past screen history to the role as a lone wolf killer – and there’s even a quiet nod to his run as James Bond – something which will add an extra dimension for fans of his career. Brosnan can deliver as much damage with a well-honed look as he can with a bullet, commanding the screen with his special brand of charisma. He seems to relish his scenes with James Caan – moments with now have added poignancy now that the acting great has passed away (this was his last role).

Meanwhile, Brosnan’s scenes with Morena Baccarin bring yet another dimension to proceedings. Opposites when they meet, their relationship goes from potential threat to growing friendship to burgeoning romance as the film progresses. Baccarin may be a few years younger than Brosnan, but the relationship is handled well and it feels organic rather than shoe-horned in. 

Brutal when it needs to be, funny when it wants to be and heartfelt when you least expect it, Fast Charlie is first-class entertainment for grown-ups. Master-craftsman Phillip Noyce has built a well-constructed revenge thriller around star Pierce Brosnan and the script delivers plenty of standout moments. Anyone looking for a good old-fashioned thriller will have to search far and wide for one that works better than Fast Charlie.