While behind enemy lines, Judge Clark Douglas once engaged in hand-to-hand combat with DVD Talk writers.
"We can't just leave him out there!"
So, I'm just a little bit perplexed by this release. I know that we're living in the 21st Century, and the name of the game is "franchise." Even so, I never suspected that Behind Enemy Lines, that ho-hum military action flick starring Gene Hackman and Owen Wilson, could launch a expanded product line. Goes to show what I know. In 2006, the film Behind Enemy Lines II: Axis of Evil was released straight-to-DVD, and 2009 is giving us Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia, the third installment in the series. The films have very little to do with one another, aside from the fact that all three focus on challenging military missions that take place (wait for it) behind enemy lines. The first film featured an actor named David Keith in a supporting role. The second film featured Keith David in a supporting role. The third film features Keith David reprising his supporting role from the second film. That's about the best I can do for you.
Anyway, Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia focuses on a group of five Navy SEALs who have been sent to investigate some suspicious activities in Colombia. A secret meeting has been called at a warehouse in the middle of the jungle, and the U.S. Military suspects that it might be some sort of drug meeting or FARC insurgents gathering. An up-close look at the proceedings reveals that the gathering is actually a peace negotiation between FARC and Columbian military officials, which is more than a relief to the SEALs. Suddenly, things take a violent left turn.
A Colombian man whose wife was killed by FARC insurgents has formed a terrorist group of sorts, and leads an attack on everyone involved in this peace negotiation. Nearly everyone nearby is killed, included two of the Navy SEALs. Another SEAL is kidnapped and tortured. Now it's up to Lt. Sean Macklin (Joe Manganiello, One Tree Hill) and Chief Carter Holt (WWE Star Mr. Kennedy) to clean up the mess. First, they have to rescue their friend and figure out how to get out of Colombia alive. As if that weren't enough, they also have to find a way to clear their names of any wrongdoing. Colombian government officials are claiming that the SEALs were responsible for the killings, and the CIA is quietly agreeing with such accusations for the sake of diplomacy. Can Lt. Macklin and Chief Holt shoot, stab, and negotiate their way out of this mess?
Truthfully, I didn't much care. The plot is actually a somewhat interesting one, as it presents a rather engaging web of intergovernmental complexities, along with a look at a complex political situation in Colombia. Unfortunately, most of the exciting and/or thought-provoking elements are buried beneath a wave of noisy gunfire and sloppy direction. I kept thinking back to Sylvester Stallone's recent installment in the Rambo franchise, which advocated mindless violence and bloodshed as an effective way to handle very fragile politically-charged circumstances. The film is bright enough to know the difference between FARC and the Colombian military, but doesn't care very much about either. I've seen worse military action films, but this one could have been so much better. It's actually thoughtful enough to avoid letting the villains become typical sneering stereotypes. Unfortunately, it gives those very same villains motivations that reek of emotional manipulation. "My wife has been killed! I think I'm going to become a terrorist and kill even more people!"
Naturally, Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia pays far more attention to the American characters. While we're given a thorough look at life as a Navy SEAL, we simply aren't able to connect with these guys in any way. They are interchangeable macho men. Yes, I suppose it's kind of moving that they want to save their buddy. Yes, I also suppose it's kind of cool that these guys know how to kick some serious butt. But what are you giving me that I haven't seen before in infinitely better movies? The film is perhaps most notable for introducing WWE wrestler "Mr. Kennedy" to the world of film (at least the straight-to-DVD variety). While he doesn't give the worst WAP (Wrestler Acting Performance) of all time (that would probably be Randy Couture in The Scorpion King 2), he's pretty flat. Professional actor Joe Manganiello doesn't fare any better, turning the character with the most dialogue into a dull strip of cardboard. Only Keith David manages to be convincing in his rather limited role.
This screener disc from the folks at Fox offers the usual subpar audio/video quality, so I can't offer any official comments there. Two comments I can make. First, the film isn't much to look at, with bland location shooting and bad special effects. Second, the score borrows liberally from John Powell's Bourne music.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this disc is pretty stuffed with supplemental material. We get two audio commentaries. First up is the one you would expect, with director Tim Matheson and the two lead actors. It's a bit on the dull side, though listenable. The second track is an IGN fan commentary with several members of the IGN staff. The guys are obviously having a lot of fun, but it's the sort of giggly track that would have been more fun to participate than to actually listen to. Honestly, it got a bit grating after a while. Even so, a rather unique idea for a commentary track.
Six making-of featurettes are here for your viewing pleasure. "The Big Guns: Military Action on Film" (6 minutes) talks about attempting to be as realistic as possible, while "Colombia Norte: On Location in Puerto Rico" (7 minutes) discusses some of the location shooting. "The Rocket's Red Glare: Explosions Explained" (9 minutes) tells us how the men made things go boom, and "The Art of the Fall: Stunt Secrets" (5 minutes) tells us how the men were able to perform impressive physical feats without getting killed. "Comedy in Colombia" (2 minutes) is a brief blooper reel, and "Stars with Stripes: Casting Joe and Mr. Kennedy" (6 minutes) is a quick look at the lead actors. Lightweight stuff, but mostly pleasant viewing.
Look, if you're a Mr. Kennedy fan curious to see the wrestler's acting debut, be my guest. If you're seeking an engaging and intelligent action film, you'll be disappointed. What were you expecting from a straight-to-DVD sequel?
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