If you watch any of the genre TV and movies produced in Canada, you’ll definitely recognise some of the actors I’m about to list – Neal McDonough, Camille Sullivan, Michael Eklund, Ben Cotton, Steve Bacic and Aleks Paunovic – even if you don’t know their names. When talking B-movies, I’d much rather have a solid, strong cast like this than one former “star” and a bunch of nobodies, like part 2 tried to make do with.
Stepping up to take on the series is Mike “The Miz” Mizanin, former WWE World Champion and still-current (as of June 2017) member of the roster. He’s got a lot of charisma, and while he’s no Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, he’s perfectly fine, and a vast improvement over Ted DiBiase in part 2. However, you could watch the first five minutes and not be aware of this, as it starts with his wooden voice over a straight-up advert for the US Armed Forces. It’s a little hard to stomach, but mercifully it doesn’t get brought up again.
After 14 solid months of military service, Sgt Jake Carter (Miz) is coming home. He’s met by his old friend, who’s now the Sheriff of the small town they both grew up in, and they go to Jake’s home to meet his two sisters for a barbeque (the parents not being around any more). There’s a slightly strange visual with the young flighty sister Lily (Ashley Bell) looking older and more world-weary than the solid, dependable Amanda (Camille Sullivan) – something to do with the eyes, maybe. But, right away, Jake tries to control them, telling the sisters who they can and can’t date, and he has to be politely reminded that everyone’s adults, he’s never there and he can just mind his own business. There’s an arc! An honest, no-fooling character arc!
Our villain is a Robin Hood type, who robs banks to make a statement about how those banks treat people, and has a big explosion-style event planned to really get everyone to stand up and take notice. Similar in many ways to the classic movie “The Rock”, only if you transplanted the action from Alcatraz to the rusty boatyard that has appeared in quite a few of the movies we’ve covered here. It’s a great location, certainly, and I’m glad the person who owns it is making a nice chunk of change from low-budget moviemakers.
The problem it shares with “The Rock” is that unless you’re a monster, you’re probably going to agree with the bad guys. Banks do screw us over and no-one in power does anything about it…but unlike “The Rock”, which made the secondary bad guy, the guy who just wanted to murder everyone, into the main threat, this just has the main guy start shooting people so you realise he’s really an asshole. Which is a shame.
Jake is sucked into this story because Lily, while out with her boyfriend complaining about her mean older brother, witnesses the villains shoot the guy who was supplying them with their explosives. She runs, gets kidnapped, Jake tries to rescue her, gets arrested, gets released and comes up with a better plan, you know how these things go. But the twists, such as they are, feel strong and not just pulled out of their ass at the last minute. Kudos to co-writer Declan O’Brien (who’s made his career writing straight-to-video sequels to big budget originals) and co-writer/director Scott Wiper (who also directed Steve Austin gem “The Condemned”).
The action is solid and entertaining, with plenty of great fight scenes, including one where The Miz goes up against Darren Shahlavi, the super-talented martial artist who we enjoyed in “Aladdin And The Death Lamp”. The inside of the derelict boat is used well, too, so even though most of it takes place in a corridor and a large room, it feels like more. There’s perhaps a few too many scenes where someone frees themselves from bondage but is unable to escape the boat, despite boats being pretty simple places to escape from (hurl yourself out of a window or just hope over the side), but this is small potatoes.
There’s yet another bit of casting curiosity with this movie, again including Randy Orton. After getting injured and being unable to take on the lead role in part 2, he was pencilled in for starring in part 3, but the thing is, he was actually in the Marines at one point and left under bad circumstances (might be a dishonourable discharge, might not). A few backers clearly expressed disappointment that what amounts to an advert for the Marines being headlined by someone who thought so little of the service, and he was pulled again. Don’t worry, dear reader, he gets his own WWE movie, the 2015 sequel to “The Condemned”, which we’ll no doubt cover at some point.
It’s better in a hundred different little ways to part 2, and I’ve no problem with recommending it. Miz is a capable leading man, able to show more than zero emotions, and while Ashley Bell is not exactly fantastic (and is on screen way more than Camille Sullivan, who is), she’s okay. The villains overact magnificently, and there’s plenty of explosions to break up any monotony which may develop.
We’ll see you for part 4, where The Miz returns but I’m not sure if anyone else does.
Rating: thumbs up