Combustible Celluloid Review - Shrapnel (2023), Chad Law, Johnny Martin Walters, William Kaufman, Jason Patric, Cam Gigandet, Kesia Elwin, Mauricio Mendoza, Guillermo Iván
Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jason Patric, Cam Gigandet, Kesia Elwin, Mauricio Mendoza, Guillermo Iván
Written by: Chad Law, Johnny Martin Walters
Directed by: William Kaufman
MPAA Rating: R for violence throughout, language and brief sexuality
Running Time: 89
Date: 07/28/2023

Shrapnel (2023)

1 Star (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

With a complete lack of interest in suspense or character, this dull, feebleminded action thriller consists almost entirely of shootouts between the grim-faced heroes and the utterly generic villains.

Two teen girls, who had gone to a party in Juárez, Mexico, have turned up missing. The father of one girl, former Marine Sean Beckwith (Jason Patric), takes matters into his own hands. In Mexico, he finds the girls' car, but when he goes for the local police, the car vanishes. He learns of a powerful cartel, "Los Mercenarios," who likely has his daughter. He reveals this information during a television interview.

The leader of the cartel, Vic Garza (Mauricio Mendoza), sees Beckwith on TV and launches an all-out attack on his Texas home. Using his military training, Beckwith saves his wife (Kesia Elwin) and younger daughter (Emily Perry), and leaves most of his attackers dead, including Garza's brother (Guillermo Iván). With nothing left to lose, Beckwith joins forces with his old colleague Max Vohden (Cam Gigandet) to stage an all-or-nothing invasion on the Los Mercenarios stronghold.

Shrapnel doesn't even begin with the teen girls being kidnapped, and we don't see them until the end. It's as if the filmmakers decided against including such character-building moments in order to make room for more shooting. Thus, there's nothing emotional about this rescue. Additionally, the action sequences — shot with no sense of space or rhythm and with shabby, jerky camerawork — are draggy and meaningless. (The villains have terrible aim.)

But the dumbest moment by far is when Beckwith goes on the news to threaten the cartel. Somehow, the cartel boss happens to be watching this local broadcast in his Mexican stronghold, and instantly reacts by sending an army to Beckwith's Texas ranch house (where the gates, for some reason, are wide open). Nobody on either side of the law seems to be using their heads.

The title, Shrapnel, has nothing to do with anything, but it's appropriate anyway, as it describes a chunk of something that ought to be discarded.

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