You have to feel for Dougray Scott. while Gerard Butler gets to save Sparta and Ewan McGregor gets to work with George Lucas, their fellow Celt is forced to pay the rent by making distinctly average TV fare like this two-part UK/Australian co-production.
With only so much demand for saturnine, fortysomething Scots, it’s his misfortune to have two more personable alternatives ahead of him in the pecking order. How different things might have been if Mission: Impossible II hadn’t overrun, obliging him to give up the Wolverine part in X-Men that would have probably made him top of the Jocks.
Instead, 10 years on, we find him playing the title role in The Diplomat, a 24 wannabe about an alcoholic British attaché arrested at Heathrow Airport over suspected links to a Tajikistani mobster. Diplomatic immunity, it seems, only goes so far, no matter how much he protests his innocence.
And things do not get much better for Ian Porter once he and his ex-wife are packed off to Oz thanks to a witness protection programme that offers little defence against the several Russkie goons sent Down Under to silence him.
With Australian actors Rachael Blake and Richard Roxburgh playing British authority figures and Claire Forlani, Dougray’s real-life missus, playing his ex, what emerges is an odd mixture of post- 9/11 paranoia, tame shootouts and glossy location porn. (You won’t believe how often Big Ben and the Gherkin appear in the first half of the story, or Sydney’s Opera House and Harbour Bridge in the second.)
That the plot involves a search for a suitcase nuke brings some tension to the proceedings, though that doesn’t prevent director Peter Andrikidis squandering time on a pair of bickering bodyguards, Roxburgh’s gay associate or a kindly prostitute who briefly gives Ian room and bawd.
The dialogue, meanwhile, is often comical, not least when Blake’s DCI Julie Hales – Jane Tennison in all but name – bizarrely calls Scott “Toots”, or when the tat-sporting Russian villain (Elan Zavelsky) testily tells an underperforming underling that, “this is not fucking Mickey Mouse Club!” Twenty minutes of interviews see Scott and Forlani musing on acting with their other halves, Roxburgh making an obscure reference to “terra damnata” and producer Greg Hadrick clunkily summing up their efforts as a “political intrigue action thriller”. Yes, only without much action and far too few thrills. Where’s Jack Bauer when you need him?
No more than passably entertaining, this compilation of counterterrorism clichés feels dated and pointless.