Main cast: Sullivan Stapleton (Matt Barnes), Charlie Bewley (Stanton Baker), Diarmaid Murtagh (Kurt Duffy), Dmitri Leonidas (JP), Joshua Henry (Ben), Sylvia Hoeks (Lana), Clemens Schick (Major Petrovich), Ewen Bremner (Jim Rainey), and JK Simmons (Rear Admiral Jacob Levin)
Director: Steven Quale
Renegades didn’t leave a good first impression. From the bizarre oversized heads badly photoshopped onto the bodies in the movie poster to the awful trailer, it comes off like a rip-off of various buddies-go-on-a-heist movies in the past. The actual movie, however, isn’t too bad at all. In fact, given that this movie is co-written by Luc Besson, one can expected some over the top physics-defying action moments here.
It is 1995, and we focus on a bunch of US Navy SEALs sent as peacekeeper forces in a region in Bosnia towards the end of the Bosnian War. Matt Barnes leads a team of five Navy SEALs, which includes Stanton, JP, Duffy, and Ben that specialize in carrying out more covert missions, often making a splash with style while they are at it. Their commanding officer, Rear Admiral Jacob Levin, has a love-hate relationship with them – he can’t admit that they are good at what they do, but he wishes that they would do things more… silently. When the movie opens, the gang manage to capture a Croatian general behind much of the mess, but in the process they hijack a tank and flatten nearly half of Saravejo. Levin tells them that they are basically on leave while the higher-ups decide what to do with them.
Stanton has been having an affair with a local lady, Lana, all this while, and he realizes that he’s in love with her. Lana is quite the bleeding heart: she wants to contribute to the rebuilding of her country, and to that end, she tells Stanton of a story her grandfather told her: during World War 2, the Nazi soldiers in her hometown got their hands on a huge stash of gold bars once belonged to the France. All the gold was lost when the local resistance destroyed the dam, flooding the entire city and the Nazi occupants in there. While many consider her grandfather to be crazy, Lana discovered earlier a gold bar at a location where her grandfather said it would be. She therefore believes that the treasure is real. If Barnes and his men can help her locate the treasure – worth about $300 million dollars today – she’d give them half the share, using her half to start a foundation to rebuild her people.
Our heroes agree, but how do you retrieve tons of gold from the bottom of a lake without anyone seeing you? Worse, their capture of the Croatian general at the start of the movie has earned them the eternal enmity of Major Petrovich, and when he learns of what they are up to, he of course wants to crash the party.
One thing I can say – there are many chiseled, good looking men in this movie, and Sullivan Stapleton still has some of the most beautiful eyes a man can ever have. I tell you, there is no shortage of eye candy in this movie! And the acting is pretty good too. Everyone’s basically a stereotype or an underdeveloped presence, but that’s okay, they are here to do stuff like exploding things and stealing gold after all. There is a nice balance of comedy and action here, with JK Simmons really going beyond the call of duty to steal every scene he is in as the acerbic, no-nonsense but ultimately soft-hearted boss of the base. He and Mr Stapleton have a nice kind of frenemy banter going, so it’s quite the shame that the movie never fully allows them to show more of this.
I’m not sure how plausible the science is behind many of the heist elements here, but I do know that the movie sags a bit in the middle, as everyone focuses on the logistics of the heist. Most likely it’s just me, but my attention wanders too easily during these moments and they are the perfect time for me to take a toilet break. It is also hard to make out what is happening in the underwater scenes – the characters are all in their diving gear and masks, so when they are fighting, I can’t tell who is trying to stab whom. Surely there is a better, more coherent way to film these fight scenes?
All things considered, though, Renegades is not a bad movie at all. The characters could be better developed, true, and Sullivan Stapleton could wear less clothes more often, but it offers enough action and comedy to be a likely pleasant option to consider on a slow day.