Wednesday, February 14, 2024

'Land Of Bad' (2024) Movie Review

Hems-pocalypse Now!
In Land of Bad, Liam Hemsworth plays Kinney, an inexperienced communications officer embedded on an op with a hardened Delta Force team. Unqualified and in far over his head, he’s only there because he was the only one around for an urgent, last minute rescue mission. The reason Kinney was around when duty called? Because he missed a flight. He missed a flight because he had diarrhea. 


This doesn’t have much to do with the plot, action, characters, or story, I just thought it was funny and worth taking a moment to appreciate. Like how the entire narrative thrust of Battleship is predicated on a drunk dude stealing a microwave chicken burrito. In fact, this makes Land of Bad seem like a much sillier movie than it actually is. A few bro-tastic jokes and some macho ribbing aside, things otherwise play serious and straightforward.


[Related Reading: 'Battleship' Movie Review]

two hemsworths? In this economy?

So, Kinney finds himself on a mission he has no legitimate business being on. He’s a newb, and generally an office cat beyond that, specializing in drones and communications. To drive home his outsider status, the rest of the team, made up of the grizzled leader, Sugar (Milo Ventimiglia), Bishop (Ricky Whittle), and Abel (Luke Hemsworth)—I know what you’re thinking, two Hemsworths? In this economy?—are a tightknit unit of counterterrorism experts. Their mission to rescue an American intelligence asset in Southeast Asia, of course, goes bad and they must fight for their lives. And the only backup they have is Captain Eddie “Reaper” Grimm (Russell Crowe), a Reaper drone pilot sitting in a chair halfway around the world in the Nevada desert. 


Purportedly based on a real event, though the actual story took place in Afghanistan, Land of Bad isn’t anything new or that you haven’t seen. (If I never hear another movie sergeant say, “Don’t call me sir, I work for a living,” it’ll be too soon.) I’ve said this about a lot of movies lately (not a complaint), but this is the type of mid-level, mid-budget, well-executed action programmer that seemed like they dropped into multiplexes weekly in the ‘80s and ‘90s. The cast has some big-ish names, there’s a decent budget, and we get strong tactical screen combat in the hands of a capable director, William Eubank (Underwater, The Signal). 


[Related Reading: 'Underwater' Movie Review]

Russell Crowe flying a drone.

The Delta Force trio doesn’t have much to do outside of being tough soldier types, but Ventimiglia, Whittle, and the eldest Hemsworth give it their full-throated all. Eventually, things burble down into a two-hander between Kinney and Reaper. The younger Hemsworth does a solid job as the out-of-his-depth rookie, fleeing for his life, scared as hell, but also driven to save himself and his cohorts. Crowe has a gas chewing on every line, cracking jokes about his vegan wife, even as he earnestly tries to rescue this young soldier’s life from thousands of miles away. (It’s easy to imagine that at some point in the contract negotiations, Crowe said, “Sure, I’ll be in your movie, but I’m not getting out of my chair.” And it does take a great deal to get him out of his comfy chair.)


At times, Land of Bad thinks it’s a very important movie with very important things to say. Like how the military treats soldiers, brotherhood in times of stress, fundamentalist terrorism, and the barbaric nature of war. That sort of thing. It’s best, however, when Eubank, who co-wrote the script with longtime collaborator David Frigerio, simply let it be a men-on-a-mission/fight-for-survival movie. Everything else is clunky, but the escalating action finds plenty of tension and enough big running shootouts to sate any fan. There are plenty of RPGs to go around. And by the time that everything that can go wrong, has gone wrong, because it’s that type of film, things ramp up to an almost Apocalypse Now-level climax. A climax Crowe spends primarily in a Whole Foods wearing a Hawaiian shirt. There’s some weird shit in this movie.


[Related Reading: 'The Signal' Movie Review]

Liam Hemsworth as a prisoner

Land of Bad doesn’t rewrite the playbook, but it’s also not trying to. This delivers precisely the movie it promises, a puffed-chest bang bang war flick. But it’s a strong, steady example of the genre. It looks great, like a real-ass movie, the action is taut and exciting in all the right ways, the actors do exactly what’s required of them, and when the filmmakers let this be exactly what it is, it’s a damn fine action movie. [Grade: B]

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