2/10/2019

Seal Team Eight: Behind Enemy Lines (2014)


Seal Team Eight: Behind Enemy Lines (2014)- * *

Directed by: Roel Reine

Starring: Tom Sizemore, Lex Shrapnel, and Aurelie Meriel









Ricks (Sizemore) is the commanding officer for SEAL team 8. He sends his boys, led by Case (Shrapnel), to the Congo in Africa to uncover the illegal sale and mining of yellowcake uranium which is controlled by an evil African warlord and his goons. While fighting their way through them, they rescue a hostage named Zoe Jalani (Meriel) who turns out to be handy with a gun and proceeds to accompany the team on their mission. Along the way, the team gets involved in many shootouts and scrapes…but who is really behind the nefarious uranium deal? Seeing that they are BEHIND ENEMY LINES, will anybody be coming to their rescue? What will happen to SEAL TEAM EIGHT?


Let’s see if we can sort this out: SEAL Team Eight is not the eighth sequel to the franchise, the eight refers to the number of the SEAL Team. This is actually the fourth installment in the Behind Enemy Lines franchise – but has nothing whatsoever to do with the Thomas Ian Griffith film from 1997. Assuming all the above information is correct – and that anybody cares – we may proceed. Sure, there are a lot of blow-ups, firefights, and modern-day war movie setpieces, but the problem is that we as viewers are not invested all that much because there is nil character development. Who are these people? We never get to know them. Maybe it’s assumed we know them because this is a series – but these characters aren’t in the previous entries, so that theory’s a bust.


Much like the American Heroes series, or the latter-day Sniper sequels, there is a lot of military jargon being said in between (and during) the war sequences. Maybe it’s so the movie can seem authentic, but they should have concentrated on character development instead. And while there does seem to be some CGI blood, bullets, and even drones, it appears to be mixed in with the practical, real stuff as well. And don’t be fooled by the SEAL Team moniker; this is actually an Africa Slog. Though, to be fair, the movie is shot well and the African locations we always seem to be slogging through look better than ever. 




Speaking of locations, the movie really picks up steam when we move out of the African countryside and into the streets of the city. The urban sequence was by far the best in the film – they should have kept the whole thing in a gritty city environment. Perhaps it’s just our preference, but if you see the movie yourself you will probably agree. Even if you don’t, there are plenty of African dudes screaming while shooting machine guns, and we can all agree on the entertainment value of that.


Thankfully, Tom Sizemore is here to perk things up. While he mainly paces around the command center and looks at screens of what’s going on, he has a great voice that is fun to listen to. Once again, do not be fooled by the box art – Sizemore himself never picks up any firearms and gets into the action. He’s pretty much just the focal point for the team. His co-star Lex Shrapnel has a great name, but like the Sniper sequels’ Chad Michael Collins, is a bland and faceless hero and easily forgettable.


The main problem is that we’ve seen this type of thing a million times before. It’s not bad, per se, and it is very professional, but it needs something to set it apart. Take Act of Valor (2012) for example. That had the novel idea of using real Marines instead of actors. This movie needed something like that – although they did seem influenced by it; there’s a very similar boat chase. The director, Reine, seems to specialize in DTV sequels, last exemplified on the site with Hard Target 2 (2016). This sort of stuff seems to be in his wheelhouse, and it’s executed well enough, but it lacks drama and heart.

We found this movie at Big Lots for three dollars – on Blu-Ray no less. If you can find it under similar circumstances – and you like the modern-day DTV war movie – we say pick it up, but keep your expectations low. And perhaps be prepared to trade it in at Game Xchange or a similar store near you.


Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

2/03/2019

Detonator (2003)


Detonator (2003)- * *1\2

Directed by: Jonathan Freedman

Starring: Randall Batinkoff, Elizabeth Berkley, Stan Shaw, Gregory Scott Cummins, Will Stewart, and Bokeem Woodbine








Beau Stoddard (Batinkoff) is a Postal Inspector on the Edge, or PIOTE. A former FBI agent, he now has to work with his ex-co-workers Robert Brickland (Shaw), Jack Forrester (Woodbine), and Jane Dreyer (Berkley) to find a mad bomber (if I may reference the great Chuck Connors film) who has been blowing people up all over the L.A. area. Most people don’t seem to approve of Stoddard’s bad attitude and unorthodox ways, but he gets results that they can’t deny (these days, we pretty much just cut and paste that sentence from our old reviews, with a new name filled in). Will Stoddard find the mad bomber before he explodes again? Will he unravel a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top? Will he do it all before the big hockey match that’s single-handedly supposed to repair U.S.-Russian relations gets blown to kingdom come? Who will press the…DETONATOR?



Detonator is a relatively decent example of what you can do if you’re planning on building a feature film around explosion footage from other movies. You won’t get Blown Away (1994) by it, but the cast makes it work the best they can. Evidently, the filmmakers took the blow-ups from Sudden Death (1995), The Glimmer Man (1996), and End of Days (1999), and, like the way cotton candy wraps around its handle while it is being made, fashioned a movie around said blow-ups. 


Detonator might not have come onto our radar if it wasn’t for the presence of Elizabeth Berkley in one of the main roles. Like with Showgirls (1995), but to a far lesser degree, it seems she’s still working hard to shed her Saved By The Bell image. However, it doesn’t help matters that co-star Batinkoff looks a lot like Zack Morris. Sorry, Mark-Paul Gosselaar. He even has the same devil-may-care attitude to life that Zack had. So, if nothing else, when and if you should decide to watch Detonator, you can make plenty of Saved By The Bell jokes.


We’ve also got on hand Stan Shaw, who seems to be the guy low-budget filmmakers get when they can’t afford Ernie Hudson. This isn’t to denigrate Shaw in any way, as he is a fine actor in his own right, but let’s be realistic here. Bokeem Woodbine has a great voice and does well as Stoddard’s sidekick, and Gregory Scott Cummins has an almost-nothing role and appears primarily as a picture other cast members look at. However, the true standout of the cast has to go to one Will Stewart as Van Wilson, one of Stoddard’s co-workers. He truly steals the show with his Kato Kaelin-like performance*.


While we give the movie credit for making the lead character a postal inspector, which we thought was different – disregarding fellow postal-inspection movies The Inspectors (1998) and its inexplicable sequel The Inspectors 2: A Shred of Evidence (2000) – in the end, the whole thing is really just more early-2000’s shelf filler. Like many movies of this type, it runs out of steam towards the end. What the movie should’ve been was Batinkoff and Berkley shooting a bunch of terrorists. Or, barring that, shooting a bunch of people who commit mail fraud. We’re surprised this wasn’t a pilot for a syndicated show, because that’s what it seems like it is. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing – it could’ve been a good show, but, well, such is life. 




Perhaps the moral of the story is, if you can’t afford your own explosions, maybe make a movie with a different plot? That’s just a suggestion, but, disregarding the fine cast, what we have here really is an exercise in editing. If that interests you, by all means check it out, but others may want to proceed with caution. 


*We’re willing to bet that’s the first time that sentence has been uttered in human history.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett