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Charlie Hunnam, Rami Malek

“PAPILLON” My rating: C

136 minutes | MPAA rating: R

There are moments in the new “Papillon” when Brit actor Charlie Hunnam looks so much like the late Steve McQueen that it’s startling.

McQueen, the cinema’s King of Cool throughout the ’60s and early ’70s, starred in the original 1973 film version of Henri Charriere’s best-selling memoir about surviving and escaping from a hellish penal colony in French Guiana. For all of McQueen’s arresting screen presence (and a strong supporting performance from Dustin Hoffman), that Franklin Schaffer-directed adventure was a snooze.

So is this remake.

Still, Hunnam looks so right in the role that one wishes he was making better choices in his projects and directors.

He showed his Yankee bona fides by playing the hunkily charismatic heir to a California motorcycle gang in cable’s long-running “Sons of Anarchy” (aka “Hamlet on Harleys”), but his movie resume has been all over the map, from the low-keyed and under appreciated jungle adventure “The Lost City of Z” to the overblown and nearly unwatchable “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.”  His best films, ironically, have been those in which he played minor character parts: “Children of Men,” “Green Street Hooligans,” “Cold Mountain.”

This “Papillon,” scripted by Aaron Guzikowski and directed by Michael Noer, looks plenty expensive, what with its massive set of a tropical prison and hundreds of extras slaving away like Hebrews building the pyramids.

But on the two vital points on which Charriere’s story pivots — his daring escape attempts and his refusal to break under inhuman treatment — the film loses steam and momentum and ends up drifting in the doldrums. (more…)

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