Meshing an action movie sensibility with real-world international strife, Hicham Hajji’s debut film Redemption Day attempts to nail a finite tonal balance. While zeitgeist ruminations centered on the Middle East oil crisis are well-intended, Hajii misguidingly molds his conceits into a stale, cookie-cutter actioner.
Redemption Day follows Brad Paxton (Gary Dourdan), a decorated U.S. Marine captain who embarks on a daring mission to save his kidnapped wife Kate (Serinda Swan) from terrorists in Morocco. Behind the scenes, Ambassador Williams (Andy Garcia) attempts to manage the situation while maintaining his economical interest.
There’s a shell of a meaningful experience here. Hajii’s rah-rah presentation reads of machismo jingoism at first glance, but his screenplay ultimately acts as a critique of the US’s malicious behind-the-scenes practices (throughout the hostage situation, government officials try to exploit the situation for oil). One can see how a clever filmmaker could juxtapose cheesy action frames with the hard-hitting truths buried underneath, potentially critiquing the ways our government sells its militarized identity to the populous. Hajii’s debut never displays the required craft or thought to ruminate on its subject matter.
Even as the film wrestles with heavy ideas, Redemption Day possesses a B-movie clunkiness. Hajii confuses self-seriousness for artistic purpose, straddling the relatively flat cast with over-written diatribes that rarely ring true (Gary Dourdan brings presence, but has little to work with as the straight-laced dad dealing with PTSD). The material strains for thoughtful platitudes, yet the dramatic frames feel robotic in their overly-schematic design. Haji’s indistinct voice behind the camera doesn’t help either, as he often undercuts competent stunts with shaky camerawork and wonky special effects (the gunshot wounds clipart-level of detail took me out of the movie).
Redemption Day never satisfies either of its genre approaches. As an action film, the been-there-done-that concept lacks the dynamism or grit to mask the obvious technical limitations. As a drama with a greater political purpose, the clunky insights rarely connect to meaningful statements. I give Hajji credit for taking risks within the action genre machinations, but his film lands in a murky morass of mediocrity in nearly every facet.
Fans of low-rent actioners may find something to cling to, but Redemption Day‘s shallow delivery rarely conveys the promise behind its premise.
Saban Films will release REDEMPTION DAY In Theaters January 8, 2020 and On Digital and On Demand January 12, 2020.
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