TUCSON, Ariz. — Spearheaded by a smoldering Jessica Chastain performance, the spy thriller "The 355" is a female-driven incursion into the boys club of action films.
Without much of a script to work with, it's up to Chastain and co-leads Lupita Nyong'o, Diane Kruger, Penelope Cruz, and Fan Bingbing to maintain the intrigue and excitement.
Sebastian Stan, fresh off "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier," is also along for the ride. The film opens in theaters Friday.
The cast is up to the task and is bolstered by well-choreographed fights and impressive effects.
The bland story meanders to its inevitable conclusion with little momentum or suspense.
Named after a female American Revolution-era spy, the film enthuses feminist themes without dwelling on its girl power impetus. Nor is it cloying or cheap in the manner of "Charlie's Angels."
The international band of spies is a bickering group of rivals who manage to set their differences aside for the common good.
With a terrorist organization setting out to pit world powers against one another to spark geopolitical chaos, it takes the 355's distinctive bland of talents to infiltrate and cut the movement down from within.
With an emphasis on cyber-savvy that backs up their considerable athleticism, hand-to-hand combat, and gunplay skills, the women jell their disparate talents into a cohesive whole.
The feel is like a superhero team-up movie composed solely of Black Widows.
Director Simon Kinberg shows an impressive feel for chaining thrilling action sequences together but lacks the same knack for driving home emotional impact in the quieter moments.
"The 355" works best when it's at its most explosive and tends to bore when things slow down. An extra round of heavy editing might have trimmed the fat out of the two-hour-plus runtime and left the film a sleeker, more appealing thrill ride.
Due to the lack of competition in theater or streaming services during this early-year doldrums, "The 355" stands out as — of not a must-see — a may-as-well see.
RATING: 2.5 stars out of 4.