Sri Lanka is no stranger to bomb attacks, and after the LTTE bombings one citizen has had enough. The Man (Ben Kingsley), as he is referred to, takes matters into
his own hands, because the government and law enforcement isn’t taking the public safety seriously. However, his plan seems obscure as he plants five bombs on different public locations, namely; a mall, on a bus, a train, in the Polgoda police station and the Katukurunda Airfield. All set to explode at the same time, if his demands aren’t met.
His demands are to have four prisoners, known for their involvement with mass bomb killings, released and have a small plane provided for their escape. How this is suppose to raise public safety urgency is baffling at first, but not everything is as it seems.
Playing the terror card, seems the only way to get their attention. Operating on top of a high building in Dehiwala he executes his plan, undetectable by using multiple cell phones. The Man contacts chief of police Morris Da Silva (Ben Cross) on his personal number to inform him of his demands and the consequences if they aren’t met. Furthermore, he seeks out the young and ambitious reporter Dilky (Numaya Siriwardena), who naively becomes his eyes and ears on every scene. All that is required is a breaking news tipoff.
His intricate knowledge of making and disabling bombs, how the police tracking system works and how to override it, tactical skills, manipulation and being able to obtain personal information on people makes him anything but a common man. Really now, the police spend long periods of time speaking to him, unable to trace the call, even after getting in a so-called expert, and nothing. Nor do they seem to make any attempt to actually find out who he is. For example, in order to plant the bomb at the police station, he has to enter it – why is there no security cameras in a police station situated in a country use to violent attacks? They clearly have surveillance footage when reviewing the four convicts profiles, so it’s not that it’s not possible. He had to fill in a report form, why wasn’t his fingerprint taken from that to run a profile trance or when he helped them disable the bomb in their station, why wasn’t the bomb checked for prints? Or is that too CSI like? Reading the false report he wrote they simply dismiss it. The officer who claims to be so certain of being able to describe his face is not able to when speaking to the sketch artist. They literally spend the whole movie trying to draw his face.
The acting and some of the characters are so strangely out of place, one doesn’t know how to take it seriously. It’s rather distracting how bad the voice acting is and it is clearly out of sync with the performances. As I’m not an expert in B-rated movies I’m not sure if it being bad is what makes it good. The opening scene was promising, perhaps if they cut the dialogue, thus illuminating the weird ‘acting’ and made it like the opening scene, it could really work – or just do the film in Shihala or Tamil and add subtitles! At least that way the actors will feel more comfortable and act more naturally. And this doesn’t exclude Ben Cross. I don’t know what he was doing but that wasn’t acting. But all that aside, it’s not a weak plot line, just poorly executed.
Why Academy Award winner Ben Kingsley chose to start in this remake of A Wednesday is perhaps the real question. But then he seems to seesaw between good and really bad script choices. Remember The Love Guru? Yeah… Why Ghandi, why? Regardless of the public and critic opinion, A Common Man did really well with hundreds of awards from film festivals all over, including Best Director, Best Picture and Best Actor at The Madrid International Film Festival.
As a thriller it fails, but it does offer some unintentional comic relief. Especially when looking at the stunts and fighting scenes, almost like a bad stage musical. A Common Man isn’t terrible, but it isn’t a must see. It has a bit of an 80’s charm to it. If you enjoy B-rated films, perhaps, but if not give it a pass. Available on DVD and Blu-ray, with no special features.