In Greece, a high-profile journalist is found murdered while in possession of incriminating documents shedding light on the CIA's various activities in Europe of an unethical nature which sparks widespread protests and anti-U. S. sentiment abroad. Untested CIA agent Kate Bannon (Nina Dobrev) identifies Victor Radek (Clifton Collins Jr.), a former asset thought to be dead, as the culprit behind the assassination and brings it to the attention of Director O'Malley (Tim Blake Nelson). O'Malley contacts agent and Radek's former handler Steve Vail (Aaron Eckhart), who has since left the world of espionage and is working as a bricklayer. While initially uninterested in what's going on, Vail soon changes his mind when assassins hired by Radek make an attempt on his life. Partnering with Bannon to find Radek, the two work their way through Greece as Vail must also confront the missteps of his past.
The Bricklayer is an action thriller adapted from the 2010 thriller novel of the same name written by former FBI agent turned author Paul Lindsay under the pen name of Noah Boyd. Noted independent film company Millennium Media (notably of the Expendables and Has Fallen films) acquired the rights to the novel in 2011 with the intention of adapting the film as a vehicle for Gerard Butler. Nothing further was heard of the project until in January 2022 when it was announced Aaron Eckhart would star in the film. Premiering as a day and date release in theaters and VOD, The Bricklayer covers well-trodden ground for this kind of lower-mid budgeted spy action-thriller, and while it's nothing all that special it does what it's supposed to and occupies your time in the same way as an airport paperback.
In a departure from the book, the story has been switched from being set around Chicago and the FBI to being based in Greece and involving the CIA (presumably so the film has more appeal on the international market). In a way The Bricklayer feels like it's harkening back to the era of spy thrillers from about 10 or 15 years ago which were very much inspired by stuff like Europacorps success with films like Taken or the popular consciousness centered around controversies involving surveillance by U. S. agencies with things like The November Man or Erased (which also had Aaron Eckhart) churned out and filling that demand. In the time since we've seen this spy template used many times (some better than others) and while on paper The Bricklayer isn't deviating from the standard of this kind of movie, by the standards of stuff that's come out featuring Bruce Willis or Mel Gibson in similar material it helps that it has a more engaged lead and a director who knows what he's doing.
While Renny Harlin doesn't recapture his glory days of Die Hard 2, The Long Kiss Goodnight or even Deep Blue Sea (though your mileage may vary on that one), but for the budget Harlin likely had to work with he keeps the pacing tight and delivers some good action beats with the standout probably being a car chase at the climax. Aaron Eckhart is an actor I really like and after seeing him in Thank You For Smoking and The Dark Knight over 15 years ago I really hoped he'd become an A-lister, but sadly his primary output these days mainly consists of generic VOD fodder. Eckhart isn't called upon to stray too far from the brooding slightly glowering action hero archetype, but he feels more present than I've seen in comparable examples. Nina Dobrev is serviceable as Kate Bannon even if the character is more there just to serve as a foil for Vail while everyone else is basically just going through the motions.
The Bricklayer is the kind of movie that exists so it can be an option in Redboxes and streaming services and if you're looking to kill 100 minutes it'll do just that. I can't say you'll be thinking about it much an hour after you see it when it inevitably blends in with similar films like Survivor or Unlocked, but you can do worse.