The blood-splattered uber-action flick has evolved in recent times, to the point that we now have not just bullet-proof blokes but also pretty young women blowing people’s brains out with automatic assault rifles that never run out of ammo. But that’s not to say that this isn’t a really good brain-strain movie, despite its manic flow, overdone hand-held close-ups and countless gunshot victims. Set mostly in a city of an unnamed Asian country (but filmed in Bogota), we have Mark Wahlberg as James Silva, an aggressive, trash-talking Special Operations agent with a tragic family history. He is given the task of delivering a defector with a secret code (Iko Uwais – a real-life martial arts champion in Indonesia) to an airstrip, from where he will be flown to the safety of the US. Wahlberg, usually finding himself in more humble or comic parts, does not quite fit the macho bill, but his likability sees him through (that and the bad guys’ inability to shoot straight). In any case, director Peter Berg, with whom he collaborated on Patriots Day (2016), is more interested in maximising bang for buck with stunts and sfx. And he succeeds admirably, with drone x-ray images, brilliantly executed car and bike chases and clinically choreographed fight sequences – although Uwais’s rumble with his guards might be considered a tad excessive, even for those mouth-breathers who love violence. What is worrying is the moral compass that guides Silva and his boss Bishop (John Malkovich) – there is none. They operate in a lawless environment where ‘whatever it takes’ is the only code they go by to beat the enemy (Russia – which is back in vogue as the evil state). Only belatedly is there an attempt to link the anarchy and slaughter to human emotions when it is revealed who has been most affected by the killing of an 18-year-old in a previous mission. The intrigue keeps you watching and an ending out of left field ensures that you will hurry back for the sequel.
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