(director: James Nunn; screenwriters: Jamie Russell/based on a story by James Nunn; cinematographer: Jonathan Iles; editor: Liviu Jipescu; music: Austin Wintory; cast: Scott Adkins (Lt. Blake Harris), Ashley Greene (Zoe Anderson), Ryan Phillippe (Jack Yorke), Dino Kelly (Danny), Waleed Elgadi (Amin Mansur), Jess Liaudin (Hakim Charef), Jack Parr (Ash), Emmanuel Imani (Brandon Whitaker), Dan Style (Base Sgt.), Terence Maynard (Tom Shield), Jess Liaudin (Hakem Charef), Andrei Maniata (Asamat), Lee Charles (Dhelkor); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: NR; producers; Marc Goldberg, Ben Jacques: Screen Media Films; 2021-UK)
“This violent film has relentless wall-to-wall action scenes and plays out as a well-crafted siege movie.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Director-writer James Nunn (“Eliminators”/”Tower Block”) tries to fool us into thinking he made the film in a single take like other recent real time films such as “Birdman” and “1917” (he can do this because modern digital editing programs and special effects have made it easier than ever to hide cuts). This bad-ass Navy Seal action thriller is based on Nunn’s B-film story. Co-writer Jamie Russell helps give it a more glaring look at the U.S. military’s inhumane treatment of detainees and terror suspects. The attempt to make it seem more real than the usual action pic means stunt men are around for many of the action scenes instead of just using CGI special effects.
In an effort to prevent a 9/11-like terrorist attack on Washington D.C., a small but elite squad of Navy SEALs led by the athletic Lt. Blake Harris (Scott Adkins, star of the DTV action scene) and his squad: Whit (Emmanuel Imani), Danny (Dino Kelly) and Ash (Jack Parr), are accompanied by a secretive junior CIA analyst Zoe Anderson (Ashley Greene), as they must bring back a prisoner from a high-security CIA black-ops site island prison in the Baltic. He’s a Brit citizen named Amin Mansur (Waleed Elgadi), who claims he was taken by mistake in a raid (who may or may not be a terrorist). He supposedly knows about an impending terrorist attack on American soil but is not talking. Mansur’s in an American prison camp similar to Guantanamo, with orange jumpsuit-clad terrorist prisoners caged and periodically tortured by the guards.
The prison director Jack Yorke (Ryan Phillipe) is reluctant to release the prisoner when not told why, refusing to just turn him over to the neophyte agent Ashley. These A type of warriors seem to be at odds over power issues, and it becomes a question of which party has more juice than the other.
But before the prisoner’s release takes place, the prison camp is overrun by the Algerian terrorist leader, the ruthless Charef (Jess Liaudin), who with 127 mercenaries comes out of a truck after freeing all the camp prisoners and thereby have more fighters to try and kill Mansur before he can talk to the CIA about the probable upcoming D.C. attack.
Even as the prison camp is destroyed and bodies pile up, the elite team will not give up till they safely get the prisoner they want. Because their leaders are almost certain that Mansur knows more than what he’s willing to say, they fight hard to keep him alive and take him back for questioning.
It leads to a well-choreographed climax by Tim Man (Adkins’ regular choreographer), whereby the skilled martial arts fighter Adkins is at last engaged in a fistfight with the brutish terrorist leader Charef, even if he does no martial arts in the film Adkins presence is enough to make things jump out at you as something special for a one-man killing machine movie.
If you’re into action pics that go all out in their action scenes, this violent film has relentless wall-to-wall action scenes and plays out as a well-crafted siege movie. It’s a visceral pic, that makes no attempt to do much else (like have any emotional depth or great meaning or character development). It also shoves in our face its belief that many of our Middle East terrorism problems are of our own making, while also questioning the extremism and martyrdom of the Jihadists.
Though the film stays clear of martial arts, the specialty of Adkins, it still might be his best film as he gets more of a chance to show his acting chops and his comical side.
REVIEWED ON 11/18/2021 GRADE: B-