The 2nd (2020) Review

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The 2nd was directed by Brian Skiba (Rottentail, Pursuit), written by Eric Bromberg (Enemies Closer) and Paul Taegel (Vandal), and stars Ryan Phillippe (One Shot, The Lincoln Lawyer), Jack Griffo (Overrun, Those Left Behind), Lexi Simonsen (Roller World, The Jester’s Song), Casper Van Dien (Darkness Reigns, Starship Troopers), Richard Burgi (The Green Inferno, Final Frequency), and Randy Charach (The Call, Zombie Tidal Wave). It follows a special forces agent as he tries to protect his son and his friend from terrorists.

The Plot: Essentially a(nother) ‘Die Hard’ scenario action movie, there’s not much new in the movie except for its college campus location. Vic (Phillippe), a special operator, attempts to pick up his son Shawn (Griffo) from campus to go camping. At the same time, Driver (Van Dien) and his goons are on the way to kidnap Erin (Simonsen), the daughter of Justice Walton (Charach) so they can use her as leverage in an upcoming Supreme Court case.

Now, one would think that the political bent would have some real relevance in The 2nd’s plot, given the use of current political heads, and one would be right to do so; but aside from an uninteresting subplot involving CIA director Phillips (Burgi) it never does. Once Vic realizes something is wrong he gets the two kids beside him and fights back; one goon at a time.

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The Characters: While none of the characters are going to become part of the action icon pantheon, some of them are good. Vic Davis is a solid hero with enough personality to keep attention. He’s a Green Beret and Delta Force operator who enjoys his job but resents the fact that he hardly ever speaks with Shawn despite his attempts to rectify that. Shawn seems fairly indifferent to that fact though. Shawn himself is alright too. A theatre major with a love for sparring and an affinity for blunt delivery, he’s thankfully somewhat useful in the movie and doesn’t feel like extra baggage.

Conversely, Erin doesn’t get to do much aside from being a plot device and a romantic interest for Shawn. She’s just there most of the time and sometimes makes bad decisions. The Driver and his crew are all just generic bad guys, as are the politicians. Performances are mixed. Phillippe is committed and lends a soul to an average character, as does Burgi. Griffo is miscast here but does what he can. Simonsen and Van Dien clearly don’t care, doing the bare minimum of performing.

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The Action: The one thing (aside from Phillippe’s performance) that keeps the 2nd going is the action. Nothing is extremely inventive but the fights involving Vic are pretty solid thanks to Phillippe’s skills in Tae Kwon Do and some decently lengthy hand-to-hand scenes where most of the environment is used by Vic and whomever he is fighting at the time.

The shootouts in The 2nd are thoroughly unimpressive and one particular bit where Vic is shooting at a guy on some stairs is obscenely dragged out and bland; consisting of shot-reverse-shots for its entirety. Thankfully, most of the fighting in the movie is brutal hand-to-hand. Also of note is a car chase in the second (get it?) half of the movie that looks alright for a majority of its length, but some obvious doubles hamper the effect.

The Technics: In dealing with the budgetary restrictions, the 2nd does well, despite some of the in-movie reasoning (satellites can track phones, but people? Come aaaaaaahhhhn.) feeling a bit cheap. It’s unfortunate that the location itself hardly feels like a school. Numerous nondescript hallways are the host for much of the action, along with a couple of dorm rooms instead of the locations inside of any school. No cafeterias, no classrooms, no staff lounges. Nothing.

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Pacing is brisk and helps to mask the flaws in the locations and in a lot of the writing (like a fifth of Vic’s dialogue is yelling Shawn’s name) to a degree. Cinematography is fine. DoP Adam Biddle thankfully stays away from the tendency for shaky-cam in low-budget action movies and makes everything else look 3 dimensional, if not interesting. The 2nd is largely competent but deeply flawed in the details.

Skiba’s first action film is far from perfect. The 2nd has little sense of place and chooses a hot-button catalyst but never says anything about it. But it does have some decent fights and a very good performance from Phillippe. I suppose that’s good enough.

The 2nd is available on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital from Momentum Pictures.

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Our Score