Title – Flag Day (2021)
Director – Sean Penn (Into the Wild)
Cast – Sean Penn, Dylan Penn, Katheryn Winnick, Josh Brolin
Plot – The true story of troubled counterfeiter, con-man and bank robber John Vogel (Sean Penn) and his relationship with his daughter Jennifer (Dylan Penn) as she tries to live her life around her dad’s tumultuous existence.
“Loving his daughter was the only honest work he ever did”
Review by Eddie on 20/06/2022
It’s fair to say that the last decade (or more if you want to be brutally honest) has not been a kind one to Sean Penn.
Discounting the collection of personal life issues that have plagued him in this time, Penn’s best roles in front of the camera amount to mere cameos in the likes of Tree of Life, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and more recently a scene-stealing segment in Licorice Pizza, while his foray’s behind the camera haven’t amounted to much with some music videos and the much maligned The Last Face all he can lay claim to as a filmmaker.
Undoubtedly an attempt to stop the run of misfires and failures, Penn launched himself headfirst into his debut outing where he would direct himself in, while at the same time giving his daughter Dylan Penn a chance to take the spotlight as a film lead in this based on a true story tale of journalist/writer Jennifer Vogel’s life growing up around serial criminal offender dad John.
Borrowing a style that could be summed up as Terrence Malick lite combined with any other rural crime based drama film from multiple eras, Flag Day feels like an instantly familiar family centered crime drama that never once feels like it’s made by the same director that embedded Into the Wild with such heart and energy or The Pledge with such raw emotional power, while in an acting sense, Penn’s overacting and inability to make John Vogel anything more than a caricature showcases the performers seeming inability to now be a lead actor.
It’s hard to know what Penn wanted out of this story exactly, what drew him to pursue making the tale of the Vogel’s into a feature film, there’s nothing unique or original about what happens and certainly nothing inspiring about how the story is told in feature form and while his daughter Dylan does a decent job at bringing Jennifer to life, a child, teenager and woman that battles to understand her father that clearly loves her but doesn’t do a great job of showing it, no ones coming out of such a bland tale better for the experience.
With nothing drawing everything all together and an unfocused delivery that ensures no extended segments or our main characters are allowed time too properly grow or engage us, Flag Day might not be devoid of solid moments or potential but its an effort that sums up perfectly where Sean Penn is at with his career right now, a place that feels far removed from the likes of Mystic River, I Am Sam, Into the Wild and 21 Grams.
Final Say –
Potentially there’s a gripping feature that could exist when telling the story of Jennifer and John Vogel but it’s not Sean Penn’s newest effort behind and in front of the camera. A mostly lifeless and forgettable drama, it appears as though the best of Penn’s days in the industry are long since past if Flag Day is what we’re going off.
2 briefcases out of 5