John Stockwell is a decent director. Into The Blue with its all-star cast including the late Paul Walker was an enjoyable, if slightly formulaic crime drama. Gina Carano actioner In The Blood demonstrated Stockwell’s strong grasp of action, if it was ultimately somewhat lacking in character. Crazy/Beautiful was an interesting slant on the usual teen romance movie and Kickboxer: Vengeance, well, that was okay too. It’s frustrating, then, that Stockwell’s most recent film Armed Response is tediously plodding, woefully under-written, oddly cast and lacking in anything like the mystery and intrigue it so desperately thinks it has in abundance.
For “reasons” the U.S. Government has established several interrogation black sites around the globe. Some are on ships, others on remote islands. The one we’re introduced to is set in an abandoned prison somewhere on the mainland. Each site consists of a large super-computer capable of analysing suspects, ascertaining when they’re lying, and feeding that information to the interrogator. Only something has gone wrong, and all the base personnel have been killed and the system is offline. Step up the only black ops team that can save the day, led by Wesley Snipes, token female Anne Heche and the man who designed the high-tech gizmo in the first place, a permanently surprised looking Dave Annable.
The central problem with Armed Response is that the story just isn’t very interesting. Technology becoming in some way psychopathically sentient is an age-old theme – with Stephen King a keen exponent – and as such must be infused with originality. Save a largely tenuous supernatural element, Armed Response fudges that necessity entirely, and resorts to a retribution based plot we’ve seen done many times before.
Its other crime is the utilisation of, or non-utilisation of, its key talent. Wesley Snipes is directed to, or chose to, largely underplay his role, here being limited to mooching around dark corridors and getting his arse handed to him in a fight. Heche is there to provide some moral fibre to proceedings, but is far too brooding to be sympathetic. And Annable? Well, he just looks surprised.
Armed Response has all the hallmarks of a film that was never fully thought through, and was made on a whim once some rogue investors misguidedly threw some money at the project. It feels like a film made in a hurry before someone realised what was really going on and cancelled the whole sorry thing. It’s a film that just doesn’t have a place, and sadly just isn’t worth your time. Unless, you want to see Wesley Snipes drive a Winnebago. If that’s your thing, the first twenty minutes are all for you.
ARMED RESPONSE / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: JOHN STOCKWELL / SCREENPLAY: MATT SAVELLONI / STARRING: WESLEY SNIPES, ANNE HECHE, DAVE ANNABLE / RELEASE DATE: 16TH OCTOBER