Land of Bad review — It’s sure not Land of Good

Directed by William Eubank | Written by Eubank and David Frigerio | 113 min | ▲▲△△△

Movies like this — men-on-a-mission flicks — were the primary action genre of my youth. They frequently featured stars like Roger Moore and Richard Burton, and in the ’80s they got a lot more right-wing and Vietnam-obsessed. They haven’t entirely vanished from the cinematic landscape, as Land of Bad attests, along with Netflix combat thrillers like Triple Frontier with Ben Affleck and the Extraction franchise with Chris Hemsworth.

Given the popularity of Extraction, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that this action picture stars the slightly less famous leading-man Hemsworth and the character-actor Hemsworth, Liam and Luke. Liam is Kinney, a green Air Force tech-head assigned to a team of hardass commandos (including Luke, Ricky Whittle, and Milo Ventimiglia) heading to the Filipino wilderness to extract (hmm, that word again) a CIA asset from a former KGB arms dealer. This while the team is under watch by Reaper (Russell Crowe, lots of Aussies playing Yanks in this one), the drone-strike operator back in Las Vegas. Things go pretty badly for the team from the jump, leaving Kinney running through the jungle with only Reaper and his colleague (Chika Ikogwe) virtually watching overhead.

As warfare becomes more like video-gaming and First Person Shooters influence the look of action movies, it’s inevitable that we’d get pictures like Land Of Bad. They too often feel like we’re watching someone else play a video game we can’t participate in, with characters that may as well be digital for how engaged we are by them. The key relationship here is between Kinney and Reaper, who we discover are both from Ohio. Kinney likes Froot Loops and communication tech, while Reaper has a vegan fourth wife who’s about to have a baby. But do we care about those details, or anything else about them? Nope.

As scene-stealing as Crowe is, his character’s storyline, which largely requires him to sit in a room and press buttons, could’ve been cut in half with no loss to the movie. In fact, it might’ve improved it, because the editing here for a suspense actioner is particularly egregious.

The opening 10 minutes features four drawn-out conversations in a helicopter, three of which aren’t necessary, and don’t get me started on the interminable scene later on where Reaper is buying groceries. It’s like Eubank — a genre filmmaker who keeps working despite deeply flawed efforts like Underwater in his past — thought these moments would help build excitement. They really don’t.

All of that could be overlooked if the action sequences deliver. When the fire-fights finally arrive, a couple work well, a couple don’t — please see above the commentary about watching someone else play a video game. None of the cinematographic ingenuity that we get in the Extraction films is evident here, but the movie has moments where it delivers. I wished there were more. Kinney is never really that interesting as a character in jeopardy, so when he gets captured, not once but twice, no one cares.

After most of the running time where the enemy barely gets a word in — just your average exoticized foreign terrorists — we finally hear the manifesto of a particularly nasty bloke who takes a ballpeen hammer to Kinney’s face. The dude must have a steel jaw, because all he loses is a single molar. Later, he manages to both talk and run. Amazing, incredibly unlikely stuff.

In the finale we get some rah-rah American jingoism, which really draws a line between it and Rambo: First Blood Part II. If that’s your bag, fill your boots. Otherwise, maybe just load up the newest Call Of Duty.

About the author


Carsten Knox is a massive, cheese-eating nerd. In the day he works as a journalist in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At night he stares out at the rain-slick streets, watches movies, and writes about what he's seeing.