Inception Media Group // 2011 // 98 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker // April 26th, 2012
Some soldiers never leave the battlefield.
Ex-soldier Bobby Miller (Toby Kebbell, RocknRolla) returns from fighting in Afghanistan and settles into his urban blight-ridden home in London.
Although Bobby's done with the conflicts overseas, there are still wars to be fought. First, he runs afoul of a gang that terrorizes his housing project, refusing an offer to join up. Then, he's recruited by some secret anti-terrorist organization to help bring down a terrorist cell.
Since The Veteran is about a veteran, and since movie veterans have evolved little since the crazed loners that came home from Vietnam and ran roughshod in films of the late '70s and '80s, we can pretty well figure out what Bobby's about after seeing him for just a few minutes. Yes, Bobby's a loner. And yes, he's suffering from some sort of vague post-traumatic stress disorder, causing him to have troubled sleep and do things like stare in the mirror for extended periods while punching a wall.
Just as his movie forebears, Bobby is possessed of above average strength, agility, and cunning, with fearlessness and a high tolerance for pain. His plus column, abetted by his rep for derring-do in the service, is readily apparent to opportunistic types, particularly bad guys who want to use his talent for evil.
The Veteran is an entertaining, if preposterous, post-Vietnam thriller updated for the paranoid 21st Century. Writer/director Matthew Hope makes a sincere and laudable effort, but has too many balls in the air with too many contrivances to make this all work as it should.
We're used to our spy movies being big-budget blow-out things like the Bourne and Mission: Impossible series. That doesn't mean it's impossible to make a modestly -- or even meagerly -- budgeted espionage tale, but Hope's low-budget effort isn't hamstrung by a lack of pyrotechnics so much as it is an uninspired script. It's set up with Bobby being "courted" by the spy guys, having meetings in bars and hotel lobbies, before being ushered into a hotel room to meet the operations head, played by Brian Cox (Red) spouting some of the worst dialogue this side of a Michael Bay movie. Right off the bat, it seems a bit cheap and cheesy.
Soon, Bobby is following around a pretty double agent and some swarthy mid-eastern guys. Now, you'd think terrorists planning a major "event" might be a little sensitive to the ubiquitous Bobby, and his cover does get blown at one point, but he's back on the trail the next day. Bobby discovers a bomb-making operation by...picking the lock on the suspect's apartment, letting himself in, and wandering from room to room! While the guy is in another room watching TV! He surreptitiously makes contact with a super-secret informer by...following her into the ladies' room of a bar! And later, accosting her in a convenience store while she's buying smokes!
Scenes like this make The Veteran sillier than it was intended. There's an awful lot of stuff tossed out about government conspiracies, the CIA being in cahoots with al Qaeda, and a "9-11 was an inside job" reference -- the kind of stuff that's supposed to make you think, make you consider the dangers of the world around you. But to make that intriguing or even palatable, you'd need a far more sophisticated film than what we have here, and the loftier aspirations make it seem even less authentic than it already is.
On top of that, there's the business at Bobby's housing project, with a whole host of additional players, including the local hood boss, who like all the supporting characters, is way too full of hackneyed philosophy. In one scene, he's playing a video game and observes, "Leading men to their deaths...now, that's power!"
Naturally, everything spirals down a convoluted path until it devolves into retro '70s-style violence. The most surprising thing is how unsurprising it all is.
While the story ends up being pretty ridiculous, Hope does keep things moving along at a nice clip. He does a great job with the violent scenes, creating them in a way that's really dynamic, given the budget. Kebbell's a good actor and does well with the character, even if Bobby ends up being a bit one-dimensional.
The disc features a clean looking standard definition 1.85:1 transfer and a decent Dolby 5.1 Surround mix. Unfortunately, the British accents were a bit difficult for my American ears, and there were no subtitles. The only bonus feature is a trailer.
The Veteran's not a terrible film, just an overall unremarkable one. Only worth a rental, if you're a fan of low-impact spy flicks.
Review content copyright © 2012 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Inception Media Group
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated R