Monday, December 05, 2016

Kill Ratio: Coup-Foiling in Eastern Europe

The Dnestrian Autonomous Republic is fictional, but it certainly sounds related to the Dniester, in Ukraine. Unfortunately, the good Dnestrians are in for a similar experience when the old regime launches a brutal Russia-backed coup. However, they did not plan for the presence of a former CIA agent, who gets to show off all his Die Hard skills in Paul Tanter’s Kill Ratio (trailer here), which opens this Friday in Los Angeles.

In the case of James Henderson, the “former” is somewhat uncertain, but not the CIA part. Whichever the case might be, he is currently working in the Dnestrian Republic as a fixer for Gabrielle Martin, an American telecom exec hoping to broker a major deal. Unfortunately, the negotiations will be interrupted by a sudden barrage of shelling. With the announcement of the death beloved, democratically elected Pres. Tania Petrenko, the evil Gen. Lazar would seem to have the whip hand. However, reports of Petrenko’s demise have been exaggerated. Somehow, Martin manages to blunder across her during her unsuccessful attempt to reach the airport.

As fate would have it, Henderson and Martin will try to shelter Petrenko in the very same western hotel where Lazar has set up his command center. Fortunately, Henderson can field dress a shrapnel wound nearly as well as he kills people. He will need both talents to keep alive the deposed president and the U.S. national, who is supposedly his boss.

Apparently, when Henderson was at the CIA, he had an unlimited license to kill, or so-called kill ratio, thereby establishing the rather drab title. Regardless, Ratio is a refreshing blast of pro-freedom, super-hawkish 1980s-style action movie goodness. The coup-plotters are not merely evil—they also have Russia’s backing. Why aren’t there more action movies informed by the dangers of the Putin era getting released and why did we have to wait for Ireland to produce this one? Frankly, there is an audience thirsting for this kind of film, but if it isn’t marketed to them, they will easily overlook it.

Ratio mostly features UK television actors, but they get the job done. Tom (Black Sails) Hopper’s Henderson is undeniably tall, square-jawed, and broad shouldered. As a bonus, he also has a fairly intense screen presence and clear diction. He sure looks a lot like the Jack Reacher of Lee Child’s books, which should be due for a film reboot sometime around now. Lacy (Game of Thrones) Moore is terrific as Petrenko, making courage and integrity look pretty hot for the meathead audience. Nick (The Tudors) Dunning and Brian McGuinness mangle Eastern European accents and shamelessly chew the scenery as Lazar and his right-hand man Vorza—and its all good. Amy Huberman is a bit vanilla as Martin, but at least she does not play her as a completely passive victim.

Arguably, Kill Ratio should find an appreciative audience on the right, where dictators being toppled by proactive Yanks have always been popular subjects (except maybe not with our incoming president) and on the left, which just discovered how dangerous Putin is, three years after Hillary Clinton approved the Uranium giveaway deal. It is certainly topical in light of recent developments in Ukraine and the justifiably increased vigilance in the Baltics. Just as importantly, it delivers the action and a cathartic pay-off. Highly recommended for action fans, Kill Ratio opens this Friday (12/9) in LA, at the Arena Cinelounge.