Thursday, 15 October 2009

Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia (2009)

This is my serious face.

I don't remember all that much about the first Behind Enemy Lines film. It was set in Bosnia for that ripped-from-the-headlines-of-a-few-years-ago feel and it featured a sniper in a jogging suit and a hilarious scene where Owen Wilson runs through a minefield in slow motion, the anti-personnel mines tearing his enemies to shreds but leaving him unscathed. Must have had them set to 'Balkan' instead of 'American'. Meanwhile Admiral Gene Hackman chewed the scenery and scowled lines like "I'm getting my man out and I don't give a damn what those pencil pushers in Washington think." It was a mildly entertaining piece of propaganda but nothing you haven't seen before.

Apparently someone thought this was a concept worthy of a franchise and a direct-to-video sequel followed in 2006, this time set in North Korea. I didn't see that one though, and the only reason the third entry caught my eye was because of the involvement of WWE Films, the company who brought us See No Evil, The Marine and The Condemned. This one stars Ken Anderson, a wrestler who goes by the unassuming name of Mr. Kennedy. The cover of the DVD consists pretty much entirely of Mr. Kennedy standing in front of an explosion and a billowing American flag. If you use a magnifying glass you might be able to spot the real star in the background somewhere, a Navy SEAL named Lt. Sean Macklin played by Joe Mangianello. Mangianello's imdb page has a lot of TV roles but few movie credits except for a small role in Spider-Man and a 2002 movie named The Ketchup King in which he played a character named Black Dildo.

This film also has some of that action movie bullshit that tries to paint life in the marines as basically being in the most bro-tastic frat ever. Ooh-rah! What appears to be a stealthy reconnaissance mission turns out to be a surprise birthday party for Lt. Macklin, during which all of his other SEAL buddies are introduced through the lazy direct-to-DVD tradition of subtitles. There's tough guy MCPO Carter Hold (Mr Kennedy), the gadget man CPO Kevin Derricks (Channon Roe), the bomb expert PO3 Steve Gaines (Chris Johnson). They also include a fun fact about each member of the team, for instance PO2 Greg Armstrong (Antony Matos) "Loves Jesus, and cleavage". There's also a terrible gag about a cake decoration going haywire, but it's still better than the golf scene in Navy SEALS.

Their celebrations don't last long and after a mission briefing they are sent into the jungles of Colombia on a reconnaissance mission. They are there to investigate a secret gathering of FARC guerrillas that turns out to be a peace negotiation between FARC and the Colombian military, but unfortunately nearly everybody there is slaughtered by some mysterious rogue soldiers. They are led by a Colombian officer who went rogue after his wife and child were killed in a FARC terrorist bombing. They manage to kill a couple of SEALs, take one hostage and the rest are framed for the shooting. Due to the Black Ops nature of their mission the American government is reluctant to intervene, so now the survivors have to rescue their buddy and gather the evidence that will clear their names.

Pretty standard stuff, if it were made twenty years ago it would probably be made by Cannon films and star Michael Dudikoff or something. Occasionally the film cuts back to their CO played by Keith David who wrestles with weaselly government bureaucrats. Tim Matheson appears a minor role too and he also directs. The action is filmed in a modern style, shakily filmed but reasonably coherent, although I was hoping a little less Blackhawk Down and a little more Commando. The DVD special features seem to be very proud of the authentic military hand signals and equipment and you can tell because it seems like half the film consists of the SEAL team loading and unloading gear and creeping around the jungle.

I was hoping for some of that shamelessly exploitative patriotism and xenophobia that you'd expect from the WWE and 80s style action films but there really isn't much of that. Oh sure, it presents a simplistic view of Colombian politics and U.S. interventionism (the fact that their mission is basically a hostile incursion into an allied nation isn't even acknowledged) but there's certainly nothing as ridiculous or tasteless as John Cena's one man war on terror in The Marine. I got a chuckle out of one part: The Colombian General states that "America isn't well liked in Latin America" and Lt. Macklin looks back with an expression like "Whuh? How could this be?" Well, films like this probably don't help.

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