Bereft of modern relevancy, this pointless remake of Franklin J. Schaffner’s Papillon sleepwalks through the familiar steps that Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman trod 45 years ago. While Dalton Trumbo’s original co-authored screenplay reflected his noble resistance to HUAC’s Red Scare tactics, revisiting the brutal existence for those incarcerated on French Guyana's penal colony in the early 1930s with minimal changes continually raises the reason for its existence.
Doing what they can with an impossible mission, the affable Charlie Hunnam (The Lost City of Z) inherits the McQueen role of wrongly convicted Henri “Papillon” Charrière, he of the butterfly tattoo on his chest, while Rami Malek (TV’s Mr. Robot) takes over for Hoffman as bespectacled forger Louis Dega. Their struggles and escape attempts may prove riveting for those unfamiliar with the ‘70s version, though even then Danish director Michael Noer brings no discernible style to the table. And while his version sheds 15 minutes by omitting Papillon’s pleasantly peaceful years with a native Honduran tribe, the result feels much longer than the original.
Grade: C-minus. Rated R. Opens Aug. 24 at Carolina Cinemark
(Photo: Bleecker Street)