December 28, 2019
The Rendezvous (2016)
Grade: 65/100

Director: Amin Matalqa
Stars: Stana Katic, Raza Jaffrey, Alfonso Bassave

What it's about. Stana Katic is a doctor in an American hospital. One day, she is approached at work by Federal agent Raza Jaffrey, who informs her that her adventurer brother has died in Jordan. He wants her to fly to Jordan with him to confirm the identity of the body.

Katic agrees, unaware that the real purpose of her trip is to help Jaffrey's cynical boss, Glenn Fleshler, solve the mystery of the brother's death. They suspect that he located a Dead Sea scroll, a priceless antiquity pursued by, among others, man of leisure Ronald Guttman and a sect of religious fanatics known as the Armageddonites, led by wide-eyed Meg Cionni.

Katic is all too eager to solve her brother's murder, while her handler Jaffrey is much more reluctant to have her involved. Sure enough, Katic gets into increasing trouble, and is eventually kidnapped, held at gunpoint, and stranded in the desert. Jaffrey is generally there with her, and as they work together to solve their problems, romance is predictably kindled.

How others will see it. The film's hottie lead, Stana Katic, starred in the long-running ABC television series "Castle". That show was highly regarded: at it has a user rating of 8.1 and a sizable 135K user votes. Given the relative obscurity of The Rendezvous, it is likely that most viewers who hunt the film down and watch it are fans of Katic, and hoped that this unrelated film would provide the same appeal.

It apparently does not, since The Rendezvous has a lowly user rating of 5.1, and a crummy user vote total of 649. The user ratings span from a terrible 4.3 among men under 30, to a mediocre 5.8 among women. "Castle" fans tend not to be pleased. Others find it implausible that our leads would survive both a kidnapping and a vehicle breakdown in the North Arab Desert. One writer (dncorp) notes that the way to get found in the desert is to burn your spare tire, since it "will produce so much thick black smoke [that] somebody will show up, usually Law Enforcement."

It is true, though, that 40% of the user ratings are 7 or higher. More than one-sixth of graders award the movie a perfect ten, and some of them might not even have been friends and relatives of the production.

How I felt about it. I, too, have misgivings about The Rendezvous. Katic is all too interested in an amateur sleuthing of who murdered her brother, even though the United States and Jordan both have experienced professionals who could do the job much more effectively. Katic knows nothing about Jordan, and has a desirable life as a medical doctor to return to in the United States.

Jaffrey's consistent desire to protect Katic, even after she strands him in the desert without a cell phone, wallet, or shoes, to ride off with a highly suspicious man (Alfonso Bassave) she hardly knows, is strictly cinematic. The movie's odd blend of humor and violence is unnerving. Are we supposed to cheer when Cionni accidentally shoots her own heavy in the stomach?

But there are also things I like about the movie. It is difficult to find good films that are set in Jordan, filmed in Jordan, and directed by someone born in Jordan. And it is nice that the ultimately romantically committed leads are a Jewish doctor and a Muslim Federal agent.

The story is familiar, an amalgam of Romancing the Stone, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and various Hitchcock movies from The Lady Vanishes (1938) to Frenzy (1972). The unfamiliar cinematography of Jordan is a bonus, as is the chemistry between Katic and Jaffrey, though it seems unlikely that neither would have a special other given their looks and career success. Also, it takes considerable inspiration to determine that squiggly lines carved in an arm are two cat profiles. And who would drive a truck around the Jordan desert that is running on empty?