At the start of 400 Bullets, British Special Forces type Noah Brandt (Andrew Lee Potts, Primevil, House of Salem) has been assigned to work with Bartlett (James Warren, The Gentlemen, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword) and his team. They’re transporting some highly advanced missiles and a small fortune in gold. Noah’s primary job, keep the guidance chips for the missiles safe. Which he gets to do when the convoy comes under attack.
Despite being wounded he escapes and makes it to a nearby British outpost. There are only two men there left to watch over things while the rest of the unit is supporting an operation. Fortunately, one of them is Rana Rae (Jean-Paul Ly, Jailbreak, I Am Vengeance: Retaliation) a Gurka who’s as deadly with his Kiri knife as he is with a gun. It’s up to the two of them to fight off the Taliban but Bartlett and his team, who were in on it as well.
Having previously mixed action and horror elements in both Black Site and Black Ops it’s not surprising that writer/director Tom Paton has decided to try his hand at a straight action film. And plotwise 400 Bullets is about as straight as gets. Our two heroes are betrayed, outnumbered and outgunned. The radio doesn’t work and even if it did, help is a long way away. It’s about as standard a scenario as it gets really. It’s also perfect for a straight-to-home video film.
Paton has plenty of experience when it comes to working with a limited budget and it shows. Making the outpost a supply depot meant not only could the film be shot cheaply at any container terminal, but he had a perfect setting for the film’s characters to stalk each other through. Setting it at night helps create a sense of claustrophobia that adds to the suspense. It also makes it easier to create a horde of Taliban with just a handful of actors.
The smartest move he made however was casting Jean-Paul Ly. While he, unfortunately, doesn’t look Nepalese, (he’s Chinese/Cambodian), he certainly brings a lot to the film’s many fight scenes. He’s been building a reputation both as an actor and for his stunt work on films ranging from The Prey to Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw and Doctor Strange and he gets to show off both here.
While Rana Rae isn’t the most complex of characters 400 Bullets does give him some depth and conflicts. His family’s business is failing while he’s in Afghanistan being underpaid for risking his life. When Bartlett offers him a share of the gold in return for Noah and the chips he has to balance loyalty and honour against his family’s well-being.
400 Bullets does have its share of flaws, however. Without the more imaginative elements of his other films, Paton’s script does feel a bit too by the numbers at times. It’s certainly does what it sets out to do quite efficiently, but it lacks the imagination and flair of his earlier work.
This extends to the film’s villains who, apart from Bartlett, aren’t given any personality or development. And he’s only given a few generic, insincere-sounding, lines about class warfare and being sick of risking his life for rich businessmen as justification. A film like this really needs a compelling bad guy and at least a couple of interesting henchmen, this has neither.
Still, for what it is 400 Bullets is enjoyable and well worth a watch if you’re looking for a quick action fix. It certainly beats watching Steven Segal waddling after goons so his stunt double can beat them up. Shout! Factory will release 400 Bullets on DVD, Blu Ray and Digital on March 2nd. You can check their website and Facebook page for more information.