Interceptor review – absurd yet entertaining Netflix action thriller

hile the rather surprisingly robust box office performance of Top Gun: Maverick has shown, once again, that all really ~이다 back to normal on the big-screen blockbuster front, as a sort of precautionary measure, a more-stacked-than-usual summer season of streaming has also kicked off. There are shows with budgets the size of movies, from Stranger Things to Obi-Wan Kenobi to the upcoming She-Hulk and Ms Marvel, and films like The Gray Man, Prey, Secret Headquarters and Spiderhead, all slick enough to be major theatrical tentpoles. Before most of that, and on a far, far smaller scale, drops high-energy thriller Interceptor, landing with whatever the opposite of buzz is on Netflix, modelling itself as an irony-free throwback to summers past and just about succeeding.

The past in particular here would be the 80s, a time when action films were all quippy one-liners, earnest melodrama, artfully muddied up T-shirts and an uneasily fetishistic amount of guns. It’s defiantly uncool, without the wink-wink nostalgia one might expect, and on its own silly, low-stakes terms, it kind of works, easy to digest if difficult to remember. It’s led by Spanish model turned actor Elsa Pataky, who plays army captain JJ Collins, assigned to a last-minute post in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It’s an interceptor base, one of two created to prevent Russian nuclear missiles from landing on American soil. If one were to launch, there would be a short timeframe for a response (we’re told at the outset that it takes just 24 minutes for a Russian missile to land in the US, a gulp of a fact given the horrors of the last few months). In a rushed opener, we see flashes of a massacre at the other station in Alaska, meaning “the only thing standing between America and armageddon” is Collins and her team.

Which is mightily unfortunate when a psychopathic former intelligence officer (Luke Bracey) murders his way onboard and reveals that missiles will be heading toward every major US city. It’s up to Collins to barricade herself in the main hub, guarding the controls and hopefully saving most of America.

The frantic battle of wills that follows takes place mostly in real time, similarish to writer Stuart Beattie’s 2004 thriller Collateral, if with obviously far less panache. This isn’t Michael Mann at the helm but Australian novelist and first-time director Matthew Reilly who does an adequate job at keeping things ticking along without ever edging his film into something more than it is or really needs to be. Clunky dialogue and questionable performances (Pataky is far more efficient at landing a physical jab than a verbal one) are somewhat papered over by both the film’s contagious enthusiasm and laudable ambition. It might be a relatively contained thriller but the stakes and impact are drawn on a far bigger canvas with Reilly edging us into disaster movie territory with scenes “on the ground” in the cities at risk (an over-extended cameo from Pataky’s off-screen husband Chris Hemsworth as an LA appliance store worker is initially amusing yet ultimately grating).

There are also some attempts to modernise a dusty formula with Pataky’s backstory involving a case of sexual harassment from a superior (a noble if mishandled subplot) and some of the villain’s ramblings touching on nepotism and white privilege. It doesn’t all land but Beattie, whose credits also include Australia, 30 Days of Night and the new Obi-Wan Kenobi series, is a touch above the hired hack that usually scripts guff like this and there are brief nuggets of substance. But it all takes a backseat to the action which is at times clumsily captured but otherwise violently effective, especially given the film’s tight budget. It’s brutal and to-the-point, like the film itself, and while it’s not going to make a star of Pataky or anyone watching a sudden convert to Netflix’s mockbuster oeuvre, it’ll make for a decent summer snack until something better lands.

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