The Numbers Station (2013) – A Review

The Numbers Station 2013 John Cusack
John Cusack in The Numbers Station

After having just watched The Raven with John Cusack and having it be a disappointing experience, I thought I’d check out another recent Cusack-starring movie. I honestly hadn’t even heard of this before looking Cusack up on IMDB to see what he’s been up to lately.

The Numbers Station apparently is a relatively new movie having had a very limited theatrical release in the U.S. in April, it quickly moved to Video On Demand and now I guess is sitting in Red Boxes and Walmart bins across the country.

Cusack is Emerson, a black ops CIA agent whose last job got a little botched and left his superiors wondering if he has the stomach to do what needs to be done in this job. He’s reassigned to a secluded bunker in England where he has to protect Katherine (Malin Akerman) a code operator.

In this locked up and reinforced numbers station she sits and decodes digits with hidden instructions to send to agents all around the globe. This babysitting gig is meant to give Emerson some quiet time to think about his future, get his head straight and rest up before getting back to field work again.

Unfortunately the numbers station gets attacked from bad guys who are trying to get in and have a dastardly plan in mind. Cutoff from any help it’s up to Emerson and Katherine to stop the bad guys from getting in to the numbers station, prevent them from implementing their scheme that involves the codes and with a little luck and ingenuity to get out of the numbers station alive.

This is such a direct-to-video quality movie that they should have put that on the poster…..or use on the demand channel advertisements or whatever. By those standards I guess I’d call it average.

It’s a very cookie-cutter kind of plot and characters. Emerson is a government agent with the movie cliches piled heavily on him. He’s a loner, he has a conscience, he gets drunk, is haunted by ‘the incident’. It’s a very standard kind of movie hero we’ve seen hundreds of times before. And here, Emerson is nothing special in comparison.

Cusack is pretty good at playing these kind of parts though. With his boyish features it always feels like a dramatic contrast for this guy to be cast as dark, dangerous characters like this.

But he does a decent job here as usual Cusack is decked out in a black suit. He always seems to be able to pull off playing a guy who can get into some action, but also has something always running through his head. He can play both of those effectively, it’s just this time neither of those two aspects of this character is very interesting.

Malin Akerman breaking some code

Akerman is easy on the eyes and actually seems like she’s going to be a fun, optimistic counterpoint character to the grim Emerson. She’s all bubbly, tries talking to him, making jokes, but Emerson won’t get roped into any of that. Once the two are under fire she gets demoted to a hysterical damsel who manages to summon up the courage to type on a keyboard and stuff.

The Die Hard-type of setup with the story taking place in one location doesn’t yield much suspense. The threat of these bad guys feels very removed from the two characters locked inside this numbers station and the importance and repercussions of what might happen if the bad guys succeed I never felt.

It just played like they’re locked in this bunker, not much to say to each other, occasionally we can hear bad guys trying to make their way in, so we’ll just kill time until they do. And all that buildup doesn’t result in climactic showdown.

The fleeting action is again by the numbers (that seems appropriate for a movie with this title). It’s filmed in such lowlit conditions it was really hard to enjoy the gunplay and fights. I kept thinking to myself ‘can’t they put on more lights in this place’.

Plus, I never got an idea of the layout of this place and the geography to where all these rooms and doors were in relation to each other. So it was all just a blur of hallways, corridors and rooms that I couldn’t figure out how they connected to each other.

The Numbers Station could have been a nice tight, little suspense outing for Cusack. I did find it refreshing that it didn’t fall into a predictable romance with sexual tension being brandished about between these two characters in between the bad guys trying to get to them, but it still ends up as an extremely uninspired, generic flick.

Like I said it’s a very average direct-to video movie that will fly out of your head and be forgotten when the closing credits start to roll. I did my best to remember it to write this review. Now that that’s done – WHOOSH! It’s gone.


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