Sunday, February 28, 2021

400 Bullets (Use Them Wisely)

According to legend, it was during the Battle of Bunker Hill that Col. William Prescott gave the celebrated order: “don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes.” Centuries later, it will still be good advice for two British soldiers out-manned and out-gunned in a remote northern Afghanistan outpost. Rounds are limited, so they must make every shot count in Tom Paton’s 400 Bullets, which releases this Tuesday on DVD and VOD.

British commando Noah Brandt has just recaptured a stolen shipment of cutting-edge missiles and the special guidance chips that activate them. He guards the chips closely, because they are forged from titanium and can’t be quickly crushed under the heel of a boot. Unfortunately, the squad leading his convoy has sold out to the Taliban. Through sheer luck, Brandt escapes with the chips, but the nearest outpost is almost deserted. Most of the men are on an extended mission, leaving Rana Rae (the son of a traditional Gurkha officer) and a comrade you really shouldn’t get too attached to, holding the fort (with its iffy wifi and comms signals).

Obviously, the absent troops took most of the post’s munitions with them. Nevertheless, Rae and Brandt are honor-bound to fight to their last breath. Unfortunately, Brandt was already pretty banged up by the time he gets there, but he still keeps chugging along, whereas Rae’s hand-to-hand prowess makes you wonder why they left him behind.

Paton’s screenplay is pretty simple and straightforward, in a tried-and-true kill-or-be-killed kind of way. Sometimes, keeping-it-simple-stupid is also good advice. Paton keeps things dark, gritty, and super-violent, just the way war is. Paton previously wrote and helmed the military-themed genre films
Black Site and Black Ops (which have considerable merit of their own). This time around, he foregoes the fantastical, embracing the boots-on-the-ground action instead.

Jean-Paul Ly and Andrew Lee Potts are unlikely to get much awards consideration for their work as Rae and Brandt, but they both show off some pretty solid action chops. Ly in particular displays breakout action star potential, building on the momentum of Jimmy Henderson’s
Jailbreak. The two heroes also share some understated but appealing foxhole chemistry, so viewers can really get behind their last stand. Plus, James Warren makes a pretty fierce villain as Warren, the leader of the traitorous outfit.

Paton does not really reinvent any wheels in
400 Bullets, but he gives us most of what we want from a VOD action film: fighting, killing, retribution, and honor. It is definitely a throwback in spirit to the vintage Cannon movies of the 1980s, which is definitely a good thing. Enthusiastically recommended for old school action fans, 400 Bullets releases this Tuesday (3/2) on DVD and VOD.