Hidden Strike (2023) Review
Despite co-starring Jackie Chan and John Cena and costing $80,000,000 Hidden Strike, originally titled Project X-Traction, has sat on a shelf for five years before just now turning up on Netflix. That raises more than a few questions about its quality because you don’t sit on something like that without a reason. Usually a very good reason.
Set sometime in “the near future” a Chinese-owned refinery in Iraq is under attack by unnamed rebel forces. A team of mercenaries under the command of Luo Feng (Jackie Chan, Ride On, The Protector) is sent in to evacuate all 498 employees, including his estranged daughter Mei (Chunrui Ma, The Fate of Swordsman, Love O2O), down the Highway of Death to the safety of Baghdad Green Zone.
Elsewhere, Chris Van Horne (John Cena, Bumblebee, Fast X) an ex-Marine who remained in Iraq after the war needs money to repair the water system for the village he lives in. He’s also heard that the terrorist responsible for the deaths of several of his father and several of their squadmates is on a bus convoy heading for The Green Zone.
Now if you guessed that Chris ends up hiring on with some mercs to get the money and the terrorist and ends up attacking the convoy that Chan is leading congratulations. If you also guessed it was a setup and the two have to fight a common enemy you’re right again. Do sparks fly between Chris and Mei? I’m sure you can figure that out too.
Director Scott Waugh (Expend4bles, Need For Speed) and writer Arash Amel (The Titan, Erased) deliver a generic buddy film that really needed some incredible action scenes to distract viewers from how bland and predictable it all is. Unfortunately what they get are mostly scenes that look like they were lifted not from an $80, 000, 000 international co-production starring a pair of action heroes but a $5,000,000 DTV thriller. And the CGI would look shoddy even at that low level.
To be fair, Chan does put in a solid performance, delivering some good stuntwork and one inspired sequence with him fighting on overhead pipes while Cena uses a long length of piping to keep him from falling and get him out of trouble. A later scene where he fights in a small sea of industrial foam is just silly rather than funny, however. Cena gets even less to work with, just having to look intimidating and throw people around.
That might be because the film’s characters are as bland as its action scenes. Chris and Luo Feng are extremely undeveloped, with just a couple of cliched scenes where they entertain kids and commiserate over past shortcomings to give them any depth. Even the villain, Owen (Pilou Asbæk, Overlord, Uncharted) a former American special ops type who decided to go into business for himself is as bland as his using Chris’ younger brother Henry (Amadeus Serafini, Smiley Face Killers, Scream: The TV Series) to lure him into the plot is overused. Chunrui Ma is simply there to look cute and give Chan someone to protect and Cena somebody to hit on.
In the end, Hidden Strike isn’t a lost gem, held up by circumstance or international politics, nor is it an unintentionally amusing disaster that was shelved for its sheer awfulness. It’s just a plodding, dull waste of time and money. Even if you’re already paying for Netflix, it’s not even worth the time to check it out.
A couple of years after making Hidden Strike, Cena was grovelling for forgiveness from the Chinese government for daring to refer to Taiwan as a separate country. Now he should be begging the audience’s forgiveness for having made this film.
Hidden Strike is available on Netflix in North America and Europe.