Could 'Special Correspondents' Be Ricky Gervais's First Genuinely Good Film?

The comedian's uneasy but hugely successful relationship with America enters a new chapter

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There is a curious cultural dissonance that takes hold whenever Ricky Gervais and America meet.

The Office, of course, was famously remade for US audiences with its cynicism clipped but its soul more or less in tact.

His subsequent forays into feature films - such as 2008's Ghost Town and 2009's The Invention Of Lying – attempted to package his idiosyncratically British humour into the heart-warming Hollywood mould, with lukewarm results.

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Then in the real world there have been his multiple stints hosting the Golden Globes, which ranks among some of Gervais' finest work (worth a knighthood, I say) precisely because the clash between his Britishness and the schmaltzy world of Hollywood was emphasised not smoothed over.

Essentially, Gervais – who came late to fame as fully formed adult in his 40s – is as British in his outlook and humour as a bloke from Reading should be. And yet US audiences lap him up, even though in many ways his brand of pessimistic, excruciating tragi-realism feels like the antithesis of American humour. Most Brits go to break America as malleable youngsters. Gervais is, in a way, doing something different: trying to bend America to his will.

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It's a strange state of affairs, and it brings us to his new Netflix film Special Correspondents.

In it Gervais stars alongside Hollywood almost-A lister Eric Bana as a pair of radio DJs who fake a series of war reports from Ecuador before, in an attempt to preserve the lie, having to actually travel there.

Even in the trailer it is clear that queasy mix of Gervais and America is in place: one minute he's cracking a Brent-esque cringe gag about testicles, the next he's running in slow motion firing a gun. But that doesn't mean it isn't going to work. In fact, it could go in its favour.

Extras, Gervais's second sitcom, was the closest he has got yet to bridging the Atlantic successfully as the petty concerns of Andy Millman, a struggling actor, clashed with a succession of Hollywood super stars. The show frequently made a strength of the clash between British and American sensibilities and eventually evolved into a powerful parable about fame.  

The difference is that Extras was set on home turf, had the excellent Ashley Jensen in support and was made for British audiences – the American stars were a novelty.

Special Correspondents is the opposite: a film set in America, for America. Once again Gervais is a long way from home – from drab offices and nursing homes and pokey London flats - and historically this has resulted in his weakest work.

Maybe this will be the time he finally cracks it, by steering clear of the cheese-y resolutions demanded by big studios and doing things 'his way' - the artistic principle he holds above all others. Netflix, arguably the most swaggering, risk-taking creative company operating in the world, could be the partner that finally lets him do this.

Let's hope so. Either way, as with everything Gervais does, it will be tackled with supreme confidence and the results will be nothing if not fascinating.

What do you think?

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