Section 8 focuses on former soldier Jake Atherton (Ryan Kwanten, Glorious). Back from war and working in a garage for his uncle Earl (Mickey Rourke), he’s married, has a kid, and, despite a few money troubles, has an idyllic, happy life. Until he runs afoul of local ruffian, Fresh (the great Robert LaSardo), and Jake’s life crashes down on top of him. Now, you might think to yourself, “Here’s the setup for a saga of brutal and bloody retribution.” And you would be right. However, you’d be wrong to assume that forms the bulk of the following narrative. Nope, that’s largely all done and dealt with in the first few minutes, and it’s when Jake winds up behind bars that the main plot kicks in. Shadowy government spook Sam Ramsey (Dermot Mulroney) recruits Jake to become part of an elite, covert hit squad and from there, damn, things spiral. The script shifts and shimmies into a swirling web of lies and deception.
For the uninitiated, Sesma and Law are old hats in this particular realm of stripped-down, few-frills action. And with this standing, they’ve assembled a cast of DTV luminaries. Kwanten has dipped his toe in this pool from time to time recently, and given the results, I’m here for it. He gives Jake a grounded pathos and simultaneously sells the pain and the ass-kickery. If he wants to keep making this type of movie, I want to keep watching them. Rourke and Mulroney lend a bit of gravitas and prestige to the proceedings, and LaSardo, with almost 200 credits on extensive resume, does so well and so often. Dolph Lundgren has a sizable role as Jake’s friend, mentor, and former commanding officer. And, of course, there’s Scott Adkins.
When you have Scott Adkins in your movie, you motherfucking use Scott Adkins as much as you can. (Sadly, in bigger movies, like Doctor Strange, they don’t always get that memo.) He’s only here for a few scenes, playing a vicious assassin named Locke, but they’re all action-heavy, including one where he simply tear-asses his way across the casino floor at a Reno hotel. Which is, of course, the ideal way for him to exist in a movie, just mercilessly pummeling dude for our entertainment. Again, exactly what we bought a ticket for. And when he does finally collide with Kwanten, it’s one of the better movie fights of the year.
Sesma knows enough to stand back and let the actors and stunt performers do their thing. There’s not a lot of affectation or overt stylistics to the throwdowns and shootouts. What he provides instead is sturdy, straightforward, clear-as-day action sequences and unfussy filmmaking. He doesn’t try to wow the audience with frenetic editing or soaring camera moves, instead he lets the people on screen do that.
Things get bit too talky from time to time between action set pieces—Rourke, Lundgren, and Mulroney all get their own extended monologues—which affects the pace on occasion. This won’t light the world on fire, honestly doesn’t even stand at the top of the DTV mountain, and like I said earlier, probably won’t be of much interest to the more mainstream moviegoers. But as unruly and over-stuffed as it is, Section 8 achieves precisely what it sets out to accomplish. It’s a solid, kick-ass action movie, plain and simple. And those of us with a predilection for this type of raw, direct action have much to enjoy. [Grade: B-]