Full of clichés, full of clashes and defined by mediocrity, Section Eight hits theaters starting September 23 with some serious gamers with paychecks.
With Mickey Rourke (The fighter), Dolph Lundgren (the mercenaries 4), and Scott Adkins (John Wick: Chapter Four) – Section Eight it’s a no-frills action flick that rarely tries anything new. Como uses a simplistic revenge premise to do a bit of globetrotting, staging a few fist fights, and then tying it all together with an ambiguous organization populated by archetypes.
Section Eight it opens in the Middle East and quickly descends into a free-for-all with casualties. Tom Mason (Dolph Lundgren) and Jake Atherton (Ryan Kwanten) are quickly introduced as the scene of Afghanistan turns into a bloodbath, leaving the squad torn apart by shrapnel while Mason and Jake barely escape with their lives.
A quick visual transition later and the audience is in the present, watching Jake adjust to life outside of the military. Working for his uncle Earl (Mickey Rourke), Jake fixes cars and spends time with his girlfriend Ash (Kimi Alexander) and his son. Unsurprisingly, after an altercation with some local thugs that ends with Jake brandishing a wrench, his family ends up massacred. Since then Section Eight it becomes a tale of revenge and retribution defined by seriously marked narrative threads.
Recruited out of prison by the mysterious Sam Ramsay (Dermot Mulroney), Jake soon comes into contact with a motley gang of mercenaries who make up the task force of the film’s title. Of those with screen time, only Liz Mueller (Tracy Perez) and Ajax (Justin Furstenfeld) make any real impression. With some serious trust issues and limited time to acclimate to his new surroundings, Jake inevitably goes off the book and leaves his cohorts covered in dust.
What follows is a condensed cut-and-run scenario, creating enough reason for Dolph Lundgren to return to the scene for his paycheck. After soul-searching that brings these old army buddies together, audiences are treated to more needless fighting along with convenient narrative twists. With the arrival of Scott Adkins as Leonard Locke, things do not improve, since this transparent action cinema continues to distribute clichés.
However, there’s no denying that Ryan Kwanten is acting as Jake Atherton, launching his performance somewhere between frantic and emotionally stricken. As he dives deeper into PTSD-induced trauma, Kwanten sweats and freaks out with just a hint of confusion. Him either running at full speed chased by a plethora of brash bad guys or exchanging flying kicks and one-inch punches with all comers. , Ryan Kwanten maintains Section Eight strangely grounded.
As much as that statement sounds ridiculous given the transparent storytelling, paycheck depictions, and generic formula behind the film: Section Eight it is still strangely visible. Despite the presence of Mickey Rourke and Dermot Mulroney in neutral, this action flick relies on charisma as these actors rev up on cruise control. Not only do they lean into the formulaic story they’ve been tasked with telling, but they also manage to throw in some poignant moments that they’re not prepared for.
Anyone who walks into this film should know that it is not an intellectual exercise. Any rational thought capabilities, beyond guns and ammunition, should be left out until those credits roll in. While the dialogue is passable compared to other films in this genre, those hoping for an action actor on par with Aaron Sorkin would be better off avoiding it.
Instead, walk in with an open mind and watch a lot of preening ensue, as perfectly balanced headliners hide their fatigue under expensive tans and perfect teeth. Where the blood is strategically placed, Hollywood hits the dirt in style and the close-ups almost feel like a contractual obligation. So much so, that these moments are more of an art statement than an action beat.
That said, there’s nothing really wrong with Section Eightapart from the lack of ambition. This movie stays so much in its own lane that it’s effortless for the audience. It offers nothing to challenge the action movie and progress it into uncharted territory. Which means that some people live, some die, and some learn life lessons. However, for most people that might be enough.