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Land of Bad (Film Review)

3 min read

Signature Entertainment

Military movies are often a mixed bag. Sometimes there's a particular message, either allegorically or a bit more on-the-nose; either pro or anti a particular conflict or an imperialist force. Obviously conflict and combat are a big component, as is a hero who learns and grows through traumatic experiences and the horrors of war. Traditionally, these movies would be centred around real-world conflicts on a major scale like World War 1 or 2, Vietnam, the Gulf War. However, with a growing fascination about covert operations in more recent years the scope of which these films can exist has broadened significantly, and it's within that world that Land of Bad is set. 

 

Land of Bad tells the story of the inexperienced Sergeant JJ “Playboy” Kinney who by a twist of fate, enters a hostile area of the Philippines, with a team of covert soldiers in order to rescue a CIA operative who had been kidnapped. This has been all supervised by their drone pilot Captain Eddie “Reaper” Grimm, at the team's HQ. Naturally, things go bad. Members of the team are killed, and others captured leaving Kinney to attempt to the rescue and completion of the mission, with the help of “Reaper” over mobile communications. 

It goes without saying that Land of Bad, as per the synopsis, doesn't reinvent the wheel. The isolated soldier, out-of-his depth with only the “guy on the headset” to guide him through his physical and mental ordeal is a well-trodden trope of the genre. The “stuck behind enemy lines” story is also pretty familiar. However, one of the key things that makes Land of Bad an enjoyable film is the charisma of the cast. may not get the same recognition as his brother Chris, but he is slowly morphing into a tremendous leading man, something he demonstrates very effectively in Land of Bad. As the audience, you get a real sense of his peril and accompanying fear but also the journey he is required to go on to survive the mission. For his part, is surprisingly understated in his role of Reaper, or at least for the majority of the film, he's still Russell Crowe so there's a few moments of scenery chewing but they are few and far between. Crowe's reassuring presence for Kinney is played really well, and there's even a little levity from Reaper that would feel jarring in the hands of a lesser performer, but works perfectly for Crowe, while his back-and-forth with Chika Ikogwe is also very well pitched throughout . There are also very creditable turns from , (the other brother) and Dream Team/Hollyoaks alumni Ricky Whittle, as members of Kinney's unit.

 

Land of Bad is very well paced and never outstays its welcome, probably outstripping viewer  expectations given the name and the nature of the film. The action sequences feel spectacular but not fantastical, the injuries are never overly gory but also never veering into the cartoonish. It feels grounded and well balanced, and despite taking place overseas, Land of Bad doesn't lean on ethnic stereotypes or lazy tropes in the antagonists – a trap which many lesser films with similar story touchpoints have fallen into from the outset. Land of Bad is a far better film as a result. 

One small gripe is that at moments it feels a little like a recruitment video or an advert for the armed forces, or certainly for some sort of military hardware, but that is also par for the course of a film within this genre in 2024. There are of course parallels to be drawn with something like Eye in the Sky, which is probably a more effective thriller and does more with the concept overall, but equally Land of Bad also does far more than expected with a pretty tired concept and a plotline that doesn't exactly scream originality. Coupled with some strong performances, and a well written script, Land of Bad exceeds expectations, even if only to reach the status of “mostly enjoyable” rather than “passable”. 

Land of Bad  is streaming on Prime Video from 26 April