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Land of Bad Film Review

Russell Crowe in the action film Land of Bad

Despite the impressive visuals and some impressive acting, Land of Bad ends up being a perfectly forgettable film.

On paper, there is little that could have gone wrong with Land of Band. Directed by William Eubank, who also co-wrote the script with David Frigerio, the film is a tense action thriller with a stacked cast of A-listers, including the likes of Liam Hemsworth, Russell Crowe, and Milo Ventimiglia. The film was announced back in 2022 and has been in production since then, with principal photography taking place in the second half of 2022 in Australia. It seems like a movie that has all its cards to be if not great, at least a good addition to the thriller genre.

The movie is based on a real story, Operation Dragon Shield and Operation Caretaker in Afghanistan, but both the names of those involved and the real location were changed. Land of Bad follows the US Are Delta Force team on a mission on the ground in the Philippines. Captain Eddie “Reaper” Grimm (Russell Crowe), a US Air Force pilot, is tasked with providing air support from the headquarters. At the beginning of the film, Sergeant JJ “Playboy” Kinney (Liam Hemsworth) is mistakenly assigned to the drone team and finds himself relying exclusively on Reaper’s remote air support, as part of the extraction team in the Philippines.

For the entire first act and third act of Land of Bad, I felt like I was watching two different films awkwardly edited together.  Shat the film struggles with is delivering the incredibly high stakes that the protagonists are under from the very first scene. As a result, their mission feels unclear, with little to no sense of urgency despite the very tense sequences the movie creates. It is only in the second act that the film successfully combines the two narratives, with much better pacing as threats loom around every corner for our protagonists, but the main storytelling issues ultimately hurt the entire film.

More than anything, I struggled to care about the outcome of this mission because I did not have any reason to care about the characters. In a film where the characters are in constant danger, it is particularly important for the audience to care about their future and their well-being, but in Land of Bad, we know so little about each character and their respective lives, that it is hard to root for them, even if they are meant to be the heroes.

Milo Ventimiglia holds a rifle as Sugar in the action film Land of Bad
Milo Ventimiglia as Sugar in the action film Land of Bad (The Avenue Film)

This is also because their enemies are just as two-dimensional, if not even more. In the typical fashion of action films, the bad guys are more caricatures than anything else: their ethnicity is ambiguous, and so is their accent and their motives or desired outcome. It almost feels like Land of Bad wants us to be against them because they are not the American white protagonists we have to root for and identify with.

For all its faults, the visual aspects of Land of Bad are fairly impressive. Despite some awkward and too repetitive slow-motion sequences during the fight scenes, the film’s visuals and its use of special effects are its strongest suit. I also thought the acting was very believable in this film, with Russel Crowe particularly standing out as Reaper as he delivers a successful combination of comedic and heartwarming moments that make us understand his character a little bit more with every scene. In the end, this very much feels like it is Russel Crowe’s film as he is the glue that holds together the sometimes-flawed script.

Land of Bad is a mediocre film at best, and forgettable at worst. Even fans of the genre can surely find some more engaging and better films to be worth their time. It is kind of ironic how I have just seen Land of Bad and yet I could genuinely not tell you what it was about. And this is the biggest flaw of the film: it is missing its heart, the very reason why it should have been made in the first place. Sure, you can have good actors, even a script that is funny at times, and impressive landscapes that add to your cinematography, but you can still tell when something is missing, like in this case.

Land of Bad will be released in US theaters on February 16, 2023.

Land of Bad: Trailer (The Avenue Film)
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