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Review: RENEGADES (2018)

While best known to the general public for his work as the director of films like THE FIFTH ELEMENT, THE BIG BLUE and LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL, Luc Besson has also amassed a huge number of credits as a writer and producer of among others THE TRANSPORTER and TAKEN franchises. He takes producer and co-writer credits on RENEGADES, the Bosnian War-set heist film, finally getting a release after sitting on the shelf for two years.

After what was supposed to be a clandestine operation to grab a Serbian war criminal during the Bosnian War turns into a rampage across Sarajevo in a stolen tank, a SEAL team led by Matt Barnes (Sullivan Stapleton 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE, KILL ME THREE TIMES) find themselves put on leave by their commanding officer Admiral Levin (J.K. Simmons Spider-Man). Learning about three hundred million dollars worth of gold stolen by the Nazis, they decide to go after it. The only problem being it’s at the bottom of a lake in Serbian held territory.

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The plot is hardly revolutionary, having been done plenty of times, in everything from KELLY’S HEROES to THREE KINGS. The only original twist here is the underwater element, which is certainly well enough executed. Director Steven Quale  (FINAL DESTINATION 5)had previously co-directed the documentary ALIENS OF THE DEEP with James Cameron as well as working on ABYSS with him and his knowledge of underwater filming is in evidence here, resulting in some truly breathtaking cinematography.

However, the footage set on dry land, including the action scenes, are strictly average at best. The opening sequence with its multiple shootouts and tank induced mayhem should have been an adrenaline-charged opening, instead, it just plods along from one by the numbers firefight to another. Even the dialogue is horribly clichéd tough guy wisecracks such as “I didn’t know you could drive a tank” “This is my first time”.

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Structurally, it suffers from starting and ending as an action film with a middle that’s a heist film with suspense but not much action. The resulting mix is likely to leave fans of either genre unhappy. And the casting is as muddled as the script. J.K. Simmons does a great job of being J. Jonah Jameson in uniform but casting the Australian Stapleton as the lead SEAL seems odd, there’s surely enough American actors to play the part. Ones that don’t sound like they just left Bondi Beach.

RENEGADES could have been an enjoyable updating of its genre, instead, it’s just another weak and forgettable film.

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