Section 8, 2022.
Directed by Christian Sesma.
Starring Ryan Kwanten, Dolph Lundgren, Dermot Mulroney, Scott Adkins, Mickey Rourke, Justin Furstenfeld, Maurice Compte, Tracy Perez, Robert LaSardo, Paul Sloan, Geoffrey Blake, Mary Christina Brown, Kimi Alexander, Brandon Burrows, Robert Laenen, Jessica Medina, Jay Montalvo, and Stephen C. Sepher.
After avenging the murder of his family, a former soldier is sprung from prison and recruited by a shadowy government agency.
There is a sizable list of recent movies introducing an intentionally problematic protagonist only to eventually soften the blow that the crimes they committed were under justifiable circumstances and that deep down, they are bleeding empathy. It’s a typically frustrating bait and switch, suggesting that filmmakers are afraid to take real risks in drawing up controversial antiheroes.
Section 8 (directed by Christian Sesma, working from a script by Chad Law and Josh Ridgway) attempts to be the solution to these gripes, at least in showing the initial crimes with unflinching detail.
Ryan Kwanten plays honorably discharged U.S. soldier Jake Atherton, now struggling to make ends meet providing for his wife and child (Kimi Alexander and Justin Furstenfeld), working in an auto repair shop alongside his uncle Earl (Mickey Rourke), who happens to owe gangsters money.
Section 8 is an uncomfortably racist movie (at least before the rest of it turns into an onslaught of generic action sequences), from the wartime prologue to the present day in which a group of stereotypical tattooed Mexican gangsters storms into the shop, making demands. This quickly leads to the murder of Jake’s mother and son, promptly causing him to snap and kill everyone involved in a nearby nightclub hangout spot. Naturally, Jake is tossed in prison.
If the premise had been executed carefully and logically, Section 8 would have been off to a grimly promising start, separated from its counterparts that prefer a more sanitized, protagonist-friendly approach. However, the script lazily phones all of it in so the story can get to the mysteriously shady Sam Ramsey (Dermot Mulroney) enlisting Jake for the titular program, an off-the-record government faction that deals with the worst of the worst, especially those selling state secrets.
Aside from serving as the most cliché plot setup to deploy in 2022 (plenty of us suffered through The Gray Man two months ago), the narrative has no intriguing ideas to reinvigorate the concept. The rest of the film amounts to a series of generic missions, with Jake showing too much sensitivity and heart when he is ordered to be a worthless killing machine. This proves him to be a liability, and I’m sure you all know what happens from there.
Another murderous contractor (Scott Adkins) is brought in to dispatch Jake (there’s not a single original thought here), and while his physicality amounts to a couple of decent fight scenes, Section 8 still goes through lifeless motions. Along the way are some bafflingly pointless scenes, such as Jake hallucinating a sex scene while grieving his dead wife. Dolph Lundgren also appears as Jake’s former military superior, fitting into the plot with predictable hidden motives.
Section 8 is so bland and telegraphed that the filmmakers pull out a triple twist towards the finale, but viewers will ask the same question as Jake – “why didn’t you just tell me that?” Well, I am telling you right now, even if you are a diehard Scott Adkins fan, Section 8 is abysmal, and not even five minutes of seeing him bust some heads is worth enduring this embarrassingly generic stinker.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com