If you saw Netflix’s recent uber-budgeted Russo-directed action blockbuster The Gray Man on Netflix then Section 8 may well ring a few bells. Knocked out for just 5 million dollars Section 8 does a decent enough job of telling much the same story by roping in a couple of ageing 1980s action stars and throwing them up against some younger faces – cult martial arts star Scott Adkins and former True Blood star Ryan Kwanten, his career in resurgence after the recent Glorious and last year’s disturbing Them TV mini-series. Kwanten’s the one to watch here, agreeably convincing as a ruthless two-fisted, gun-toting former special forces soldier who has “nothing to lose” and is enlisted by a covert organisation to do the dirty work it would prefer to keep secret.
Five years after an operation in Afghanistan wiped out most of his unit, Jake Atheron (Kwanten) crosses a line when he sets about a gang of thugs threatening his garage-owning “Uncle” Earl (Mickey Rourke who now seems to be melting from the top of his head down) for protection money. The recriminations are devastating and Jake finds himself serving a lifetime prison sentence…until he’s sprung by the mysterious Sam Ramsey (Dermot Mulroney) who persuades him to join his shadowy government Black Ops squad called Section 8. Jake quickly becomes suspicious of the organisation’s operations and realises that he has become nothing more than an assassin and he goes rogue. Section 8 ain’t happy and set about trying to wipe him out even as he tries to hang on to what’s left of his humanity.
The result is 90-odd minutes of fairly standard action move stuff – kinetic fistfights, shoot-outs, car chases – that will best find favour with fairly undemanding action movie afficionados and people who haven’t seen The Gray Man. But in fairness it’s directed with a flair that belies its budgetary limitations – stock shots suggest a range of locations that the production clearly didn’t actually visit – and the endless action scenes, the film’s raison d’etre, are adrenalized and punishing. Unashamedly and proudly a throwback to the era of straight-to-DVD action thrillers, Section 8 really has nothing new to say and is just a slick, modern spin on every routine action movie cliché imaginable. It does, however, deliver a brief respite from the sensitive touchy-feeliness of so much modern anxious-to-please cinema and its utter disposability is in many ways part of its primal appeal.
Section 8 is out now in the US