Wednesday, March 7, 2018

In short: Renegades (2017)

Warning: there are a couple of spoilers in here

Former Yugoslavia during the civil war. A group of Navy SEALS led by Matt Barnes (Sullivan Stapleton) has just barely managed to kidnap a Serbian general and war criminal, escaping with the man and their lives thanks to a mad dash through a city in an old Soviet tank.

Their long suffering superior (J.K. Simmons) clearly hasn’t been through enough, so they decide to get into some more trouble. One of them (Charlie Bewley) has a local girlfriend named Lara (Sylvia Hoeks), and Lara has a plan. Going by tales her grandfather told her, there’s a load of gold the Nazis stole buried under water smack dab in Serbian territory, and the SEALs just happen to have the ideal skill set to acquire it. Half of the money would go to the men, the other, Lara plans on using for the eventual rebuilding of Bosnia. Given that she proposes the magic combination of doing good, making a lot of money and going on a secret adventure, the guys are in pretty quickly.

Of course, quite a few problems will come up, not the least of them the followers of the general they kidnapped who’d rather like to murder them all in retribution.

When it comes to Steven Quale’s diving action adventure, I’m for once willing to skip the usual Europa Corp jokes (I mock because I sort of love, though), for this one’s such a nice bit of throwback adventure and so surprisingly lacking in mean-spiritedness for a contemporary action movie, it deserves to be treated with an equal lack of mean-spiritedness.

While I do understand why most contemporary action movies are on the grim and gritty side, and don’t have a philosophical problem with it, it’s such a nice change to for once see an action film whose heroes only kill a couple dozen guys - and all of them in self defence –, where only the bad guys are out for revenge, and where every one of the good guys not only deserves to be called a good guy but actually lives. I suppose we can thank the caper movie elements for that for this more light-hearted sister of the heist movie usually portrays its thieves as the good guys for one reason or another and treats them accordingly, and that’s certainly a concept Renegades shares.

This doesn’t mean the action is boring: the tank ride in the beginning is pretty crazy fun, and the various diving sequences are actually exciting – not something you’ll hear me say about many diving sequences, as a matter of fact.

The characters are pretty flat and one-note – I suppose Joshua Henry’s character is the clever one, Bewley the pretty one, Stapleton the tragically grizzled boss one, Hoeks the quietly heroic one, and so on, but there’s not much substance to any of them. The only character that really sticks in the mind is J.K. Simmons’s pretty hilarious outing as the grumpy, shouty superior with the heart of gold, and that’s on account of the performance, certainly not the role. This is just not much of a problem in something like the film at hand, though, because flat characters are enough for the fluffy yet good-hearted entertainment with explosions and sexy violence this is, as long as the film moves quickly enough – which Renegades does.

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