Code Name Banshee was directed by Jon Keeyes (Rogue Hostage, The Survivalist), written by Matthew Rogers (The Survivalist), and stars Jaime King (Escape Plan: The Extractors, Out of Death), Antonio Banderas (The 33, Uncharted), Aleksander Vayshelboym (Money Plane, Black Water), Catherine Davis (Run Hide Fight, Trauma Center), and Tommy Flanagan (Max Cloud, There Are No Saints). It’s about a contract killer coming back into the life of her teacher to protect him from a newly placed bounty on his head.
The Plot: Assassin stories are generally easy to pull off; make clear the target, the mission, and how it inevitably goes awry for entertainment purposes. Rogers doesn’t pull this off, making a generic plot somehow borderline unreadable with indeterminate story origins, nebulous intentions, and plenty of cliches.
Half a decade ago, Banshee (King) found out that her father was killed in an asset transfer to the CIA. Why were assets being transferred and by what organization you may ask? You can ask but don’t expect an answer. Caleb (Banderas) escaped the ambush set up by Greene (Flanagan) on behalf of the CIA(?) and went dark, and the agency(?) for some reason suspects Banshee of having something to do with the ambush(?).
Nowadays, Banshee is doing the same work, only with Kronos (Vayshelboym) as her requisite assistant/hacker. On a mission to kill a congressman in a hotel, she’s again confronted by Greene, who gives her the opportunity to hand over Caleb. Of course, she doesn’t take the offer but does track down Caleb who’s now living in New Jersey with his daughter Hailey (Davis), who only periodically enters the picture.
With Caleb found, Banshee seeks to fix up what went wrong 5 years ago by working with her mentor once more, but even after a reveal about the asset transfer that naturally involves a hard drive and high-level individuals, the story only works through the motions.
It’d be passably generic if it gave some degree of insight into its organizations and antagonistic tendencies, but because it doesn’t, Code Name Banshee’s story is better left forgotten.
The Characters: A shift in average protagonists has made the new standard in action movie making those with troubled pasts and questionable morals. Nothing is wrong with that, but Rogers’s script goes for the bare minimum, making Code Name Banshee rely on its strong cast to tread water in basic parts.
Banshee used to work for The Collective, whatever that is, under that alias. Now that she’s out of the organization, she’s returned to Delilah. Without much more than that most basic of descriptions, there’s nothing to say definitively. Was she close with her father? Did she have her own aspirations or was she destined to go down the darker path? What happened to her mother, assuming she had one? None of this is answered or even posited and left uncertain to maintain a shadowy presence. King tries to sell the character but there’s hardly one to play.
Caleb used to be in a similar situation to Banshee and her father but took the failure of his last mission as a quick and quiet way out of killing. His problems didn’t entirely dissipate as he wanted them to though, as he still has outstanding debts with the mob. Which mob? Again, who knows? In another set of cliches, Hailey has been trained to defend herself and his wife died of cancer, making him reflect on his past, but not meaningfully so since the movie has no intention of answering moral queries.
Greene is just a bad guy all around, intimidating everyone he menacingly stares down, including his own posse of gunmen and women. Aside from the money on Caleb’s head, there’s little in the way of justification for the obsession where there could’ve – and should’ve – been a connection. Flanagan and the majority of the cast, aside from a coasting Banderas, try to bring the characters to life but their efforts are for naught.
The Action: For a movie billed and presented as an action spectacle, Code Name Banshee remains static for most of its runtime. Lacking strong choreography or pyrotechnics, it doesn’t put on the pressure when necessary.
Peaking early, Banshee’s infiltration into a guarded hotel to kill a congressman is the highlight of the action as she goes in, dual pistols in hand to take out unsuspecting watchmen and fight some more newly alerted ones via hand-to-hand combat mixed with literal gun on gun action to reach an elevator. An unseen hacker working with Greene retakes the system and sends her up against worse odds, which she handles similarly well. While not triple-A in its execution, it’s decent action moviemaking, making it unfortunate that Code Name Banshee can’t reach that level again.
It takes 40-ish minutes for Code Name Banshee to even attempt to get kinetic again, and when it does it pales in comparison to the middling bar it set for itself. Greene has sent two teams to capture Caleb and kill Banshee, one to his house and the other to the bar he bought not too long after his early retirement. Assaulting the bar comes with some flops at tension building, with the goons attempting to catch Caleb off guard, making the owner fake conversation when both parties know what’s going to happen. What ensues is over in a flash and has lackluster construction, with the same disarming moves seen in hundreds of other movies.
Keeyes is seemingly obsessed with creating siege pictures, opting to turn the last half-hour of Code Name Banshee into a standoff at Caleb’s house, periodically pocked with meek attempts from Greene’s men at killing the three inside. Nothing exciting happens here either, with the house remaining largely untouched, as do the protagonists, killing suspense along with the action. Action fans need not watch this to find creative or brutal moments as there are only maybe a few.
The Technics: 30(!!!) producers funded this movie, but you’d be hard-pressed to believe it was greenlit by that many people who didn’t see the numerous flaws in the script or uninspired choice in the director as Code Name Banshee is flat in its look and banal in its presentation.
Pacing is painfully slow here, with large gaps in action-filled in with meaningless exposition that doesn’t do much to develop the characters or the story. Screenwriting woes will make lots of viewers check their watches, phones, or other tabs since Rogers had a script with enough pages to make a movie, but it’s nearly blank in engagement as it takes on the same basic concept and characters and was made by a helmer as uninspired as Keeyes.
Budgetary restrictions are clear too, as most Code Name Banshee’s gunshots are marked with CG muzzle flashes, bullet impacts, and blood. If melee were the main course of action this would be forgivable, but such moments are few and far between, making the expenses spared questionable at best. Perhaps this presumably low amount of money on hand could also explain some weirdly muted audio in the last 25 minutes, in which some lines of dialogue and clips of physical contact sound like they were filmed under some form of cover, but that much is just speculation.
What isn’t speculation is the lesser value of Code Name Banshee, which deals with the same old stuff, albeit in a worse than normal execution on the story and character front all while expecting audiences to stick around for below-average action.
Screen Media Films has released Code Name Banshee in theaters as well as on VOD and Digital platforms. You can check their website for more information. And if that isn’t quite what you were looking for, FilmTagger has some other suggestions.