Tommy Callaghan, a ruthless businessman, sends out two of his most loyal couriers to retrieve a special package. However, Callaghan’s tactics have earned him a considerable number of enemies who all have devised their own plans to intercept this mysterious package. It isn’t before long an all out war is waged on streets.
Crime-thrillers are not usually my bag; even though I am aware that I’m watching a good movie, like a Martin Scorsese movie, I seldom care about what’s going on. That’s just me my personal viewing habits, of course. Initially, I was a little iffy about going into Jake L. Reid’s “The Antwerp Dolls” but the trailer showed a lot of promise and potential. Sadly, after it was over, it seemed wasted when the movie decides to focus more on the caper rather than the characters.
There’s a new mafia boss out on the streets who is simple known as 'The Belgian'. Fellow crime boss and ruthless business man, Tommy Callaghan, wants to form an alliance with The Belgian. In order to make a deal, Tommy sends out two couriers, whom he trusts, to pick up a package with contents that are unknown to everyone but Tommy. However, Tommy has made a number of enemies over the years and once words gets out that Tommy is looking to acquire this package, a number of gangs step in an attempt to intercept the goods. Including former protégés who have a score to settle.
“The Antwerp Dolls” is one of those movies where I wanted to like it more than I did when it was over. There was a great deal of potential shown by Jake L. Reid and the movie had some high moments to it as well, but, to me, it felt like the film’s focus was misplaced. While I may not be the biggest fan of crime-thrillers, I have seen enough to know and understand the usual framework that these movies are built off of and the beats they tend to follow.
“The Antwerp Dolls” has relatively simple story with a typical scenario: a crime group steals a prized possession in order to gain control and to hold leverage. And I guess it’s not fair for me to say that the movie had misplaced focus since, with these kind of movies, it is all about the caper. The big score! The conflict arising from the stolen goods... The reason it is a problem with “The Antwerp Dolls” is that the item that’s being stolen is unknown — it’s the mysterious package, à la “Pulp Fiction” — and that’s there in an attempt to raise interest from the mystery around it. Instead the stolen package becomes irrelevant because the story then shifts to being about how the package relates to the different characters who’ve become tangled up in this heist.
The movie eventually lost me as a viewer in the first half because of this focus on trying to build up the relations between the characters for no other purpose than the inevitable double-cross, triple-cross, reverse double-cross, etc.. And it lost me because the movie has no flow and no pace; it’s very episodic in nature on how everything plays out. You’re introduce to Character Set A, given their story, then we’re introduce to Character Set B with their story, then we’re told how Set A relates to Set B, where they stand amongst the stolen package and how they relate to other character sets. This formula goes on and one through the first half of the movie. Part of the problem is that it makes that actual movie itself feel like it doesn't start until it's already half way over.
The other problem is an unintentional stop-and-go sensation is created with the pacing because the movie does this for every single character in the movie. It’s done in order to add to the complexity of the plans by the different criminals, but all it does is convolute the plot. It felt like the movie was more interested in keeping the audience confused so that the big reveal in the end is surprising. Instead it caused me to become disinterested in anything that was occurring because the movie took too long to start and was too busy focusing on trivial elements of the story. And it’s a shame because once the movie gets going, and the characters are actually playing out their respective parts, it becomes a respectable addition to the crime-thriller genre.
At the very least, I enjoyed the characters. Particularly Jason Wing as the eponymous Tommy Callaghan. His portrayal of a ruthless businessman and gangster stole the show; when he would degrade people and call them cunts, I could feel the spit hitting my face from his intense performance. Hyperbolic? A little bit, but Jason Wing’s performance was far more engaging and interesting than the actual plot of the movie. It’s what made the viewing experience frustrating since more time should have devoted to the characters — not just Callaghan — since that’s what was interesting; not the journey of a mysterious package.
Ultimately, “The Antwerp Dolls” is not a bad movie but it is frustrating. I can understand what they were trying to accomplish — it’s an ambitious movie — but I can’t help but feel they focused on the wrong element. If far less time would have been spent on trying to make the plot complex, (which was ended up being convoluted rather than complex) and kept a more streamline story and focused on the characters, than this would have been great.