Legacy: Black Ops is a good one. Like so many indie products, it has been marketed to look like an action flick for dvd, but the truth is something more akin to a psycho – political thriller. Clearly influenced by both the Bourne films and Jonathan Demme’s The Manchurian Candidate, it reins the intrigue in somewhat for an intimate, starkly paced look at one man who is on the brink of losing both his mind and memories in the wake of a special ops mission gone awry. Idris Elba gives a mini powerhouse as Malcolm Grey, a battle scarred veteran who has isolated himself in a drab motel room, ruminating on a calamitous outing with his fellow squad members to find and take out eastern European extremist Salenko (Julian Wadham). Whatever went wrong sent a chain reaction down the ranks and left them divided in years to come, but we are only treated to unreliable fragments of these events, reflected through the prism of Malcom’s broken mind. He receives visits from his squad mates, but are they really there, or yet another illusion dreamt up to avert his gaze from the truth? Character actor Richard Brake is O’Keefe, his longtime friend and second in command, providing sympathy and solid support during the mission we see unfold in hectic flashbacks. Adjacent to this plot is the political rise of Malcom’s brother Darnell (Eamonn Walker) riding the wave of an election that will put him in a seat of immense power, but one wonders how he’s connected to Malcolm and his past? How indeed. It’s confusing to say the least, but never trips over its own ambitions, sewing threads of concise cause and effect throughout it’s story, which is emotionally downbeat and melancholic in nature, a stylistic choice that really works in the film’s favour. If you’re willing to sit, absorb and meditate on a slow burner of a tale that feeds you pieces of the puzzle bit by bit, with almost zero action to be found, have at ‘er. I enjoyed it immensely.
Antoine Fuqua’s Tears Of The Sun is a brutal, tough war machine of a flick in the tradition of the old 70’s war films, kind of like a brooding Dirty Dozen. Bruce Willis stoically heads up a team of special ops soldiers who are sent into a war torn region of Africa to rescue a doctor (Monica Belucci) from a missionary camp. Genocidal maniacs are encroaching into the area and it’s no longer safe for locals or relief workers. His orders are simple: locate and extract the doctor, and no one else. However, when he comes face to face with the refugees, and their situation, he simply can’t find it in himself to turn his back on them when he can do something to help. He then disobeys his orders, collects both his team, Bellucci and the Africans and makes a run through the jungle for diplomatic protected soil. His team are a grizzled band of warriors, each with their own unique qualities and opinion on his decision. Kelly (a badass, mohawk adorned Johnny Messner) believes it’s too much of a risk, and not their concern). Michael ‘Slo’ Slowenski (Nick Chinlund, excellent and understated) takes a compasionate standpoint. Second in command Red Atkins (Cole Hauser) trusts Willis is making the right call. Soon they are pursued by the extremists, led by a hulking Peter Mensah, before King Leonidas kicked him into the Sarlak pit. The combat scenes are hard hitting, seemingly very well rehearsed and researched. The only problem for me was the overbearing and extended sequences of genocide, which are harrowing and quite tough to watch. When it’s combat based it’s a damn fine piece, with a rugged, thoughtful band of heroes who are an absolute joy to see in action. Rounding out the team are Eamonn Walker, Charles Ingram, Paul Francis, Chad Smith and a briefly seen Tom Skerritt as Willis’s commanding officer. Tough, muscular and no nonsense, with burgeoning compassion that gives that soldiers purpouse beyond the cold lethality of the mission. Fuqua has a terrific collection of lean and mean action flicks under his belt, and this is one of the best.