Here’s the step-up: the American Embassy in Southeast Asia suddenly has a visitor by the name of Li Noor (Iko Uwais), a former cop that has a computer disc that contains vital intel on the location of stolen Russian Cesium 139 (aka fear powder). Looks like this stuff can make bombs “worse than Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined”. Noor’s demand? Get him on a plane for America and he’ll divulge the access code of the encrypted disc. Well, that shouldn’t be too bad as the plane is only 22 miles away (what is that, 16 blocks?).
Enter Overwatch, a clandestine covert team of ‘ghosts’ that consist of fast-talking, foul-mouthed, shoot-first, then shoot-again heroes for Noor’s transport to the airstrip. They are: ADD team leader James Silva (Mark Wahlberg), who always snaps a wrist rubber band to calm him, Sam Snow (Ronda Rousey), Douglas (Carlo Alban), and on-the-edge Alice Kerr (Lauren Cohan), who just wants to see her little girl again. BUT, the trip there is anything but cake & unicorns! Naturally, their sojourn has been intercepted by a bunch of hitmen and James & Co. are forced into a fire-fight gauntlet on the streets, and then into a safe-house (which ain’t exactly safe).
Needless to say, things go from bad to worse as they perilously try to get from point A to point B without getting seriously killed, just to bodyguard Noor and get him on that plane AND get that blasted code from him! So what do you get? You get Overwatch‘s ‘mother’ (John Malkovich) on the coms telling them where to go and how much time is left, as James and his team, fight off insurmountable odds on the road, in apartment buildings, and everywhere else. Whew! Oh, and look out for that ending, it’s a doozie!
First-time screenwriter Lea Carpenter has a firm grasp on the subject matter, but obviously saw all the other ‘gauntlet’ films (see above) as this one just mimics the others. Let’s face it, with films like these, HOW much riveting dialogue is there? This isn’t Mamet or Sorkin, just a series of F-bomb laced techno-speak that gets in the way of Peter Berg’s (Lone Survivor) incredibly faced-paced direction. Speaking of which, Berg heaps heavy dollops of his camera work into this film to dazzle (or confuse) your senses. Go-Pro, hand-held, computer-surveillance, and other camera tricks, combined with continuous whiz-bang smash-cuts & smash-edits, makes this a herky-jerky movie to watch.
Although the script is your typical ‘get the person to the location unharmed’, Berg ratchets-up the action to eleven with incredible firepower, blood, gore, ghastly deaths, and some decent fight scenes (Uwais in the infirmary is awesome), the only problem is, Berg cannot shoot a hand-to-hand fight scene well. Oh sure, his gun battles and street scenes are filmed decent enough, but anything close-order and personal and his camera work sucks. Waaay too many edits and close-ups! He should take camera lessons from Paul Greengrass or David Leitch for shooting excellent hand-to-hand fighting.
Wahlberg is in his element here as the strong, no-nonsense team leader, but Lauren Cohan (from TV’s The Walking Dead) steals his thunder as his #2, fleshing out her character beautifully as both a hardened soldier and a loving mother. Uwais reminds me of a young Chow Yung-Fat; charismatic and deadly, and MMA star Rousey is quite good here. Okay, you’ve seen this story before (did you catch all my Easter eggs in the review?), but for a wham-bam, mind-numbing afternoon at the movies, it’ll do.