Combustible Celluloid Review - Land of Bad (2024), William Eubank, David Frigerio, William Eubank, Liam Hemsworth, Russell Crowe, Chika Ikogwe, Luke Hemsworth, Ricky Whittle, Milo Ventimiglia, Daniel MacPherson
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With: Liam Hemsworth, Russell Crowe, Chika Ikogwe, Luke Hemsworth, Ricky Whittle, Milo Ventimiglia, Daniel MacPherson
Written by: William Eubank, David Frigerio
Directed by: William Eubank
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence and language throughout
Running Time: 113
Date: 02/16/2024

Land of Bad (2024)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

'Bad' to the Drone

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Often quite exciting, yet slightly problematic, and certainly too long, William Eubank's bloody military action movie Land of Bad squeaks by on the strength of Russell Crowe's scene-stealing performance as "Reaper."

Rookie Air Force TACP officer Sergeant JJ "Playboy" Kinney (Liam Hemsworth) finds himself at the wrong place at the wrong time and recruited for a dangerous mission. A Delta Force team — made up of Master Sergeant John "Sugar" Sweet (Milo Ventimiglia), and Sergeants Abell (Luke Hemsworth) and Bishop (Ricky Whittle), in addition to Kinney — are to parachute into the Philippines jungle to rescue a captured CIA man from terrorists.

Aiding, from all the way in Las Vegas, are drone pilots Captain Eddie "Reaper" Grimm (Russell Crowe) and Sergeant Nia Branson (Chika Ikogwe), providing "eyes in the sky" and missile support. Things go awry and Kinney finds himself alone, with only Reaper to help him get back home. But it's not going to be easy.

Land of Bad has a little trouble getting the inexperienced Kinney in on the mission — no one seems able to answer the question "what is he doing here?" — but once he's there, he proves capable of handling things. (Liam Hemsworth is considered a second banana to his brother Chris, but he still has his own measure of charisma.)

The jungle footage is a good mix of soldier-type banter, close calls, and suspense-building. The trouble arises when the movie posits its thesis: that war is only worth anything if it's fought man-to-man, and that technology — especially drones — are not authentic (there's no glory). Sure enough, during the climax, Kinney finds himself fighting one-on-one, and it's hard not to wonder what the agenda is here.

But when Crowe storms onscreen, first complaining about the location of his coffee in the kitchen and raging about his March Madness team, and then firing off pages of dialogue about his ex-wives and current (vegan) wife, drinking Monster drinks and practicing golf shots, things get a spark. A lot of it is extraneous, but it adds a much needed level of livlieness.

It all leads up to a climax with Kinney trying to escape the villains' compound before a bomb drops, cross-cut with Reaper at the supermarket, trying to get everything on his wife's shopping list. Weirdly, it works. Land of Bad has its fair share of "bad" but it's mostly outweighed by the good.

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