(director/writer: William Eubank; screenwriter: David Frigerio; cinematographer: Agustin Claramunt; editor: Todd E. Miller; music: Brandon Roberts; cast: Liam Hemsworth (Kinney), Russell Crowe (Reaper), Luke Hemsworth (Abel), Ricky Whittle (Bishop), Milo Ventimiglia (Sugar), Chika Ikogwe (Nia); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: R; producers: David Frigerio, William Eubank, Michael Jefferson, Adam Beasley, Nathan Klingher, Ryan Winterstern, Arianne Fraser, Petr Jaki, Mark Fasano; The Avenue; 2024)

“Without plot freshness or purpose.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An old-fashioned macho action-thriller with modern-day high-tech warfare, but without plot freshness or purpose. Director William Eubank (“Underwater”/”The Signal”) co-writes it with David Frigerio–throwing into the mix crass comedy and a script that lacks coherence.

Islamic terrorists have started a secret war in Southeast Asia, and Delta Force is sent to the jungle in the Philippines on an extraction mission of a CIA asset. Among the soldiers on the mission is the last one to join this Delta Force unit, the untrained rookie Sgt. Kinney (Liam Hemsworth), codename “Playboy.” The others in the unit include his buddy Lt. “Sugar” (Milo Ventimiglia), Abel (Luke Hemsworth) and Bishop (Ricky Whittle).

The mission gets botched, and Kinney is left alone surrounded by the bad guys when trapped behind enemy lines.

But he’s not really alone, because Kinney’s being monitored on a computer screen by Air Force drone pilot “Reaper” (Russell Crowe), who sits comfortably fat in a Las Vegas Air Force base and when not showing off his comical chops (the no longer action pic star is stealing the acting honors with his hammy performance) is trying to get Kinney to safety by telling him to go where they ain’t. Reaper communicates to the stranded Kinney by radio and does so by making dumb-ass wisecracks about his pregnant wife, and in a grating manner starts each sentence to Kinney by calling him Playboy (sorry, this comical bit wasn’t funny)

In the third act, after I nearly went deaf from all the explosions in the previous acts, Kinney is in extreme danger and after two days time is running out to save him. Though Reaper’s aware the situation calls for action, he’s still calmly shopping at the supermarket and strangely finds time to ask the worker if they carry a certain cheese. By not focusing on the situation, it seems to me like a bad joke lifted from another film.

The pic suffers over its poor pacing, too much military chatter, and too many contrivances and cliches. But despite such drawbacks, it delivers the entertainment value for its patriotic target audience with a too violent and unbelievable finale.

The film’s most poignant statement might be in its opening scenario, when the confused Kinney is trying to choose if Fruit Loops or Frosted Flakes would be the more nutritious product to have for breakfast. Since both cereals are not health foods, I thought maybe the film was throwing out sublime virtual reality signals that it had no real value.