Review: ‘Section Eight’ masters the mediocre action movie

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Ripe with cliché, filled with face-offs and defined by mediocrity, Section Eight hits cinemas from Sept 23 with some serious pay check players. 

Featuring Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler), Dolph Lundgren (The Expendables 4), and Scott Adkins (John Wick: Chapter Four) – Section Eight is a low rent action flick which rarely attempts anything new. As it uses a simplistic revenge premise to do some globe-trotting, stage some fist fights, then link it all together with an ambiguous organization populated by archetypes.  

Section Eight opens in the Middle East and quickly descends into a free for all with casualties. Tom Mason (Dolph Lundgren) and Jake Atherton (Ryan Kwanten) are quickly introduced as the Afghanistan locale turns into a bloodbath, leaving the squad shredded by shrapnel while Mason and Jake barely escape with their lives.  

A quick visual segue later and audiences find themselves in the present day, watching Jake adjust to life outside of military service. Working for his uncle Earl (Mickey Rourke), Jake fixes cars and spends time with his girlfriend Ash (Kimi Alexander) and their son. Predictably, after an altercation with some local thugs which ends in Jake brandishing a wrench, his family end up slaughtered. From then on Section Eight turns into a tale of revenge and retribution defined by some seriously signposted narrative threads.  

Recruited out of prison by the mysterious Sam Ramsay (Dermot Mulroney), Jake soon comes into contact with a ragtag band of mercenaries who make up this movie title taskforce. Of those who get screentime, only Liz Mueller (Tracy Perez) and Ajax (Justin Furstenfeld) make any real impression. With some serious trust issues and limited time to acclimatize to his new surroundings, Jake inevitably goes off book and leaves his covert cohorts for dust.  

What follows is a condensed cut-and-run scenario, which creates enough reason to bring Dolph Lundgren back into the picture for his paycheck. After some soul searching which causes these old army buddies to bond, audiences are treated to more needless fighting alongside convenient narrative twists. With the arrival of Scott Adkins as Leonard Locke things fail to improve, as this transparent piece of action cinema keeps dealing out cliches. 

However, there is no denying that Ryan Kwanten is acting his socks off as Jake Atherton, pitching his performance somewhere between frantic and emotionally stricken. As he takes a deep dive into PTSD-induced trauma, Kwanten does sweaty and scared with just a dash of confusion thrown in. Either running full tilt pursued by a plethora of blatant bad guys or trading flying kicks and one-inch punches with all comers, Ryan Kwanten keeps Section Eight strangely grounded. 

As much as that statement might sound ridiculous given the transparent storytelling, paycheck performances and generic formula behind the film – Section Eight is still oddly watchable. Despite the presence of Mickey Rourke and Dermot Mulroney in neutral, this action flick trades on charisma as these actors tick over on cruise control. Not only leaning into the formulaic story they have been charged with telling, but also managing to toss out a few moments of pathos for the unprepared. 

Anyone going into this film should be aware it is no intellectual exercise. Any capacity for rational thought, beyond guns and ammo, should be left outside until those credits roll. Even though the dialogue is passable in comparison to other films of this genre, those expecting an actioner on par with Aaron Sorkin would do best to avoid it. 

Instead, go in with an open mind and watch the sheer amount of preening which goes on, as perfectly poised headliners hide their fatigue beneath expensive tans and perfect teeth. Where blood is strategically placed, Hollywood punches land with panache, and close-ups almost feel like a contractual obligation. So much so, that these moments are more arthouse statement than action beat. 

That being said, there is nothing really wrong with Section Eight, apart from a lack of ambition. This film remains so much in its own lane that there is no effort involved for audiences. It offers nothing to challenge the action film and progress it into uncharted territory. Meaning that some people live, some people die, and others learn life lessons. However, for most people that might be enough. 

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