Editor’s note: We were sent the first three episodes of Citadel (the first two premiere on April 28 and will release weekly after that), thus this review is only based on those episodes. 

The Russo Brothers have yet again failed to make a project that lives up to the standard set by Avengers: Endgame. You see, since their MCU curtain call, the Russos have released a slew of dumpster fires, from Cherry — the first leading dramatic role from Tom Holland — to The Gray Man. Their enduring love for Heat aside (the one thing we’d agree on), their non-MCU projects reminded you that very few go into the Marvel machine without being another cog in a spandex-wearing machine. The brothers serve as executive producers on Citadel, a new spy thriller for Prime Video, and while it’s possible that their creative input is minimal and they’re just used on the marketing for namesake, their fingerprints are all over this lifeless Jason Bourne rehash.

Citadel review

Priyanka Chopra Jonas in Citadel
A still from Citadel courtesy of Prime Video.

The series begins on a train as a mission with two Citadel agents Mason Kane (Richard Madden) and Nadia Sing (Priyanka Chopra Jonas) goes wrong thanks to a rat. The train explodes and the two are separated. As the series likes to remind us, this is the “fall of Citadel,” and we pick up eight years later as Mason is now married to another woman without any recollection of his past. That is, until his old supervisor, Bernard Orlick (Stanley Tucci), comes knocking at the door and attempts to catch him up with his past and enlist him against a new threat.

Maybe the premise sounds familiar, and that’s because Citadel takes the remains off the plates of James Bond, Jason Bourne, and the Mission Impossible series. One can forgive a familiar story (how would you go about making a completely original spy film?), but not one that’s redundant and keeps the training wheels on at all times. I mean, this is a series that constantly flashes back and tells you the year (this is fair play) on top of whether this was before or after the “fall of Citadel.”

Maybe this is some self-awareness coming from the Russo Brothers and Co., who are aware the audience may be asleep this far into the series, but we’re not morons and it’s not hard to remember the eight-year time jump. To be fair, storytelling has never been the strong suit of the Russo Brothers. Joe Russo recently spoke about AI technology, and he’s one of the rare instances where I’d suggest they give it a shot.

And that redundancy carries over to almost every corner of this series. The cinematography was handled by Newton Thomas Sigel and Michael Wood. The former worked on Cherry as the DP, and he directs the first three episodes of Citadel (at the very least). For one reason or another, someone is obsessed with spinning shots that look cool after the main title sequence but quickly become irritating while you’re looking at Stanley Tucci — who’s nearly giving the same performance here as he did in I Wanna Dance with Somebody.

Stanley Tucci in Citadel
A still from Citadel courtesy of Prime Video.
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Richard Madden is a popular name thrown around when it comes to who should take on the mantle of James Bond. While I like Madden, if the pitch of this show included that this could be his informal audition for that part, I’d maybe just send a reel of other projects. The Jason Bourne-like plot about his memory is resolved all too quickly — at one point, there’s a serum that can be injected into you for your memories (shockingly, the Russo Brothers didn’t choose to take the easiest way out) — and he lacks any sort of charisma. Even his performance as the slimy John Reid in Rocketman had more pop. Between this and Eternals, I’d maybe look for something with a little bit more emotional weight.

Ditto for Priyanka Chopra Jonas. In all fairness to her, she’s a lot more magnetic than Madden is, but their chemistry is, dare I say, worse than Chris Evans and Ana de Armas in Ghosted. Say what you want about that stair sequence and how it looks like it stitched the two together, most of Citadel looks like it was reshot on a soundstage, which doesn’t help the actors. This is something that the writers must have noticed as well, as the two exchange one-line quips like they’re in a Marvel movie. (Is this the Russo Brothers asking to be let back into the MCU?)

I also didn’t realize it was possible to take the intrigue out of an actor like Roland Møller. The Danish actor is an amazing action star — watch Riders of Justice instead of Citadel —  and has broken into the mainstream with roles in action flicks like Atomic Blonde, The Commuter, and Skyscraper, but is reduced to just mean-mugging and threateningly staring at Tucci. Oh, and Lesley Manville is in the series. That mention is about all her character is worth in the series.

Roland Møller in Citadel
A still from Citadel courtesy of Prime Video.

Should you stream Citadel? 

Maybe this whole trainwreck (sorry, not to bring up the events of the first scene of Citadel) gets better, but my short reactions to each episode went: dull, a small improvement, please be over. The reality of it is, the mystery isn’t that intriguing, nor is it watching a lifeless Madden gawkily ask questions about his past while piecing it together in bunches. The Russo Brothers clearly have a love and respect for the likes of James Bond and Jason Bourne, but just as their endless attempts to recreate Heat go, Citadel falls flat and is an offense to the genre. I sure hope the next time I’m on a train somebody retracts my memories from having to watch this.

Grade: D+

The first two episodes of Citadel premiere on April 28.