Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Land of Bad: Two Hemsworths Fighting Abu Sayyaf

Air Force Captain Eddie Grimm, call sign “Reaper,” does all his flying from a drone terminal, but he still gets credit for combat hours. Grimm is about to rack up a lot of them, because he has no intention of going home until the Special Operators he is watching over safely catch their e-vac. Unfortunately, his drone only carries a very finite payload of missiles in William Eubank’s Land of Bad, which releases today on VOD.

The mission is too realistic for comfort. Four operators must rescue a CIA asset from Alexander Petrov, a Russian arms dealer operating in a remote region of the Philippines controlled by the Wahhabi terrorist group, Abu Sayyaf. Honestly, this premise could be happening today or tomorrow. It will only be Sgt. J.J. “Playboy” Kinney’s second boots-on-the-ground operation, but the rest of the team, led by hardnosed Master Sgt. John “Sugar” Sweet is as tough as they come. Since Kinney is the Tactical Air Control Party officer, coordinating with Reaper, he should never have to fire off his gun during the mission. Of course, he will have to anyway, when Abu Sayyaf starts killing women and children.

Things get really messy, really quickly, turning the small patch of rain forest into the “land of bad” Kinney was warned about. As the presumed sole survivor, Reaper will try to guide Kinney to the rendezvous site, like Danny Glover and Gene Hackman in
Bat 21. However, Reaper can rain down fire on Abu Sayyaf positions, which is a handy extra advantage, but he must strategically pick his shots.

Land of Bad
is probably the best action/war movie featuring the U.S. military since Warhorse One, with which it shares several thematic similarities. Perhaps most notably, both films have the guts to make real-life terrorist organizations the bad guys. In the case of Johnny Strong’s film, it is the Taliban. For Land of Bad, it is the Islamist terrorists, Abu Sayyaf (and to a lesser extent, Russia).

Arguably, the dialogue, co-written by Eubank and David Frigerio, rings with even greater authenticity. Throughout their ordeal, the special operators can segway from casual flippancy to deadly seriousness and then shift back, with complete naturalness—and it sounds totally legit.

The action scenes are also both realistic and cinematic looking. It certainly does not hurt that Eubank has two Hemsworths to put through their paces. Liam helps flesh out Sgt. Kinney a bit more than you might expect, giving him some human neuroses, as well as a commando physique. Plus, Brother Luke is hard as nails playing the steely Sgt. Abell. Yet, neither can out bad-cat Milo Ventimiglia as the Master Sgt.

However, Russell Crowe serves up the most memorable performance, by far, by embracing his inner and outer schlubbiness as Reaper. He wears his attitude and attitude-problems like badges of honor, but his commitment to the guys on the ground is so strong, it eats him up. Crowe provides a lot of comedic relief, but his character is fundamentally all about honor.

Land of Bad can be critical of the U.S. military, or rather senior officers, but in a way that gives voice to common complaints you hear from veterans, junior officers, and senior noncoms. Most importantly, the warfighting scenes hit hard and the threats are real, which produces meaningful cathartic satisfaction. Highly recommended for fans of anti-terrorism action, Land of Bad releases today (3/19) on VOD.