When Yanks think of Brits, we often form a mental picture of Benny Hill or Are You Being Served?, but some of the world’s fiercest warfighters are in the Queen’s service. Sometimes their own lingo doesn’t do them any PR favors. The Special Boat Service sounds pretty pedestrian, but they hang with the U.S. Navy SEALs any day. In fact, John Stratton is so frequently paired up with a SEAL colleague, he also becomes a friend. His death leaves the British commando seething for vengeance, but he will focus on foiling a catastrophic terrorist plot in Simon West’s Stratton (trailer here) which opens this Friday in Los Angeles.
Stratton and his soon-to-be late SEAL pal Marty Sturgess were supposed to swim in and out of an Iranian germ warfare facility, safely securing their double-secret super-strain, but the mission specs are wrong at nearly every juncture. It is like someone knew they were coming. That would be Grigory Barovsky, a rogue Russian, previously assumed dead. He massacred the Iranians and framed the Brits and Yanks. Stratton just barely escaped, but Sturgess is not so lucky.
Naturally, his next SEAL partner, Hank Monroe, happens to be an old friend of Sturgess and rather hot-headed in the way we Yanks get. However, Stratton can keep him focused on the immediate tasks, like recovering the ultra-lethal pathogen, ferreting out the traitor in MI6, and generally killing a bunch of terrorist scum.
Stratton is a highly appealing throwback to 1980s action movies, like The Delta Force, Navy SEALs, and Ffolkes, while also nicely representing the “Special Relationship” between the U.S. and UK with Stratton’s partnership with a Navy SEAL comrade. Dominic Cooper is impressively steely as Stratton. He definitely overshadows Austin Stowell’s Monroe, but the film is titled after his character, so what do you expect? Regardless, Stowell has a gee whiz earnestness that suits the film and character well enough. However, the best developed relationship and strongest chemistry is that shared by Cooper and Gemma Chan as the by-the-book mission controller, Aggy.
Admittedly, Thomas Kretschmann looks a little weary playing the villainous Barovsky, which is why the German reporter in A Taxi Driver was such a nice change of pace for him. Connie Nielsen and Derek Jacobi add some class to the joint as Stratton’s M-like boss Sumner and his Derek Jacobi-like dad Ross.
There are several neatly executed meat-and-potatoes action scenes and a number of Middle Eastern terrorists get their comeuppance in a manner worthy of 24. West is an action veteran, who clearly helms with a steady hand. There is nothing pretentious or sucker-punchy about the film, which is why it is such a breath of fresh air. Highly recommended for action fans, Stratton opens this Friday (1/5) in LA at the Arena CineLounge and also releases day-and-date on iTunes.