The easiest stories to write and the easiest roles to play are the ones that parallel your own life. So who knew that before golden-age heartthrob Errol Flynn hit the big screen as an action-adventure leading-man type, he was in real life, a leading man and action adventurer. Based on Flynn’s novel “Beam Ends,” director Russell Mulcahy brings Errol Flynn’s swashbuckling real-life prequel to the big screen with In Like Flynn.
From the legendary jungles of 1920’s Papua New Guinea, a youthful Errol Flynn (Thomas Cocquerel) is on the search for the countries hidden gold, along with his trusted companion by his side and a two-man film crew to capture every moment. As with any search for treasure, the hunt comes to a sudden stop when Flynn and gang stumble into a freshly-built ritual site for cannibals. Here Flynn shows off his ability to escape deadly situations with minimal loss…being his trusted companion. This becomes In Like Flynn’s first of many comparisons to Raiders of the Lost Ark.
After escaping to Sydney, Flynn has nothing to his name, but the desire to go back to New Guinea and find the treasure he abandoned with his old friend and partner Rex (Corey Large). In need of a boat, Flynn hopes to win one in a crooked poker game turned knife fight. Here Flynn shows off his ability to fight numerous foes at once and foes of any size sans whip.
“Based on Flynn’s novel ‘Beam Ends’…brings Errol Flynn’s swashbuckling real-life prequel to the big screen”
Hoping to purchase a boat from opium smuggler and madam Mrs. Achun (Grace Huang), Flynn loses his cash but manages to steal Achun’s boat using the physical torture of his friend Rex by Achun as a distraction. While preparing the stolen boat, Flynn is then met by the even more youthful sharpshooter Dook Adams (William Moseley) looking for adventure under Flynn’s tutilage. And the angry brute Charlie (Clive Standen), who once owned the boat they’re stealing and originally stolen by Achun.
Now Flynn’s swashbuckling adventure for gold begins up the Australian coast to Papua New Guinea. Along the way, they brave the elements, fight amongst themselves, narrowly sink the ship at their own hands, become victim of a crooked port town run by crooked David Wenham, run to Achun’s goon and mistresses, and learn a little something about themselves.
I honestly tried to avoid being that guy to call out the obvious, but there’s no escaping it. In Like Flynn is Indiana Jones-lite. For one, the budget didn’t allow for massive Spielbergian special effects or lavish DeMille set pieces. What we have are some decently choreographed fight scenes using fisticuffs, knives, and gunplay along with some beautifully shot scenes at sea and on a boat.
“…an homage to the action-adventure tales of old Hollywood, appealing to the fans of the adventure films of old.”
For the human element, the sea-weathered veteran Charlie uses the wisdom of the sea to teach Flynn about being a captain. Flynn takes Dook under his wing as an adventurer. Flynn and Rex are friends and partners through good and bad.
Let’s start with the obvious; this is supposed to be Errol Flynn’s pre-Hollywoodland life, but rather than actually be a story of his life, it feels like a 1930s Hollywoodland version of his life. Which is not necessarily a negative, once you understand this is, in the end, an adventure picture and not a biopic. This then begs the question, “does it matter that we know this is Errol Flynn’s story?” No, not really. In Like Flynn is forced to stand on its own without being given any real Flynn mojo. Pull the real Flynn out of the picture, and you have the exact same story—good or bad, authentic or not.
In the end, what we have with In Like Flynn is an homage to the action-adventure tales of old Hollywood, appealing to the fans of the adventure films of old. The dashing and handsome Thomas Cocquerel is fine as the dashing and handsome Errol Flynn and is convincingly plays the man who survives on his wits, charms, and fists. It doesn’t appear that he’s trying to do impression of Errol Flynn and almost ninety-years later, it really doesn’t matter.
In Like Flynn (2019) Directed by Russell Mulcahy. Written by Steve M. Albert, Marc Furmie, Corey Large. Starring Thomas Cocquerel, Corey Large, William Moseley, Clive Standen, Grace Huang, David Wenham.
6.5 out of 10 stars