Land of Bad

Reviewer: Richard Maguire

Writer: David Frigerio and William Eubank

Director: William Eubank

There are guns, blood and muscles galore in William Eubank’s visceral war thriller set in The Philippines. A cross between Eye in the Sky and Deliverance, Russell Crowe’s drone operator has to save Liam Hemsworth’s Air Force airman from gun-toting Jihadists after a rescue mission goes wrong. It’s all entertaining in its way but brings little new to the genre.

Hemsworth is Sergeant JJ Kinney but he is more often referred to as Air Force or Playboy or Fruit Loop or Tech. He joins a US Army Delta Force to extract a CIA agent from an Abu Sayyaf compound on the south of the island. Air Force isn’t trained to take part in such an operation but the other three men, led by Master Sergeant John ‘Sugar’ Sweet, need someone who can communicate with drone operator Reaper back in Las Vegas.

It all goes well – Russell Crowe’s team, by use of a drone that files invisibly above, can check the land ahead for trouble before they move – until they reach the compound. The job to reach the ‘asset’ is more difficult than they imagined. There are lots of heavily armed guards on trucks with missile launchers and when the terrorists start killing women and children our heroes divert from their plan, rough as it was.

Soon Air Force is the only man left alive and Reaper now has to lead him to the extraction point a few kilometres away, but with hostiles chasing him it’s a race against time. Helen Mirren was a more interesting drone operative than Crowe’s Reaper. Mirren was tasked with moral decisions about killing innocent civilians while Reaper is given a fairly boring backstory about a pregnant vegan ex-wife. “How do you know someone is vegan?” he quips. “Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.”

Crowe is perfectly fine as the sometimes-comic operator but the family issues get in the way and his character’s story only seems to be there to give Crowe a meatier role compared to the adrenaline-fuelled soldiers back in the Philippines. Here, Hemsworth isn’t bad at all. His boyish looks are perfect for the part of a soldier who has seen little action. Refreshingly we are given little of his background ensuring that his section of the story never flags.

Expat Ricky Whittle with the words Land of Bad tattooed on his arms and Milo Ventimiglia are sold brawny support as Air Force’s comrades-in-arms, but annoyingly some of their narrative appears to have got lost on the cutting room floor which means that the film unsatisfyingly switches gear about halfway through to provide the audience with more gunfights. All the action is electrifyingly filmed but it’s as never as stylish as Monkey Man, Dev Patel’s violent debut currently doing the rounds.

Land of Bad perhaps is most similar to Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant which appeared on Amazon Prime last year. They both start with an ambush and end with a dam. And it’s likely to pick up the same audience. Both are exciting in an old-fashioned way where the lines between good and evil are reassuringly and simply drawn.

LandofBadstreaming on Prime Video 26 April.

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The Reviews Hub Film Team is under the editorship of Maryam Philpott.

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