Judge Ian Visser is a notorious member of the "Axis of Twinkies."
North Korea bad. USA awesome!
Good old Kim Jong-Il. You can always count on him to do something wacky! This time, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea has developed a new three-stage missile that can reach into the continental United States. Forced into a response, the President (Peter Coyote, Northfork) launches a covert operation utilizing an elite force of U.S. Navy SEALs to destroy the missile site.
But for the first time in cinematic history, something goes wrong. The mission is called off in favor of a full-scale assault on North Korea, but not before a quartet of SEALs are already on the ground. Now, the team must somehow complete their mission, even as the military brass in Washington plans to engage in an all-out attack that may plunge the entire region into chaos.
Behind Enemy Lines II: Axis of Evil is the latest in a line of sequels that have nothing to do with their original counterparts. Much like Save the Last Dance 2 or Fast and the Furious 3: Tokyo Drift, Behind Enemy Lines II: Axis of Evil merely uses the name of a previously successful film as window-dressing. And as you would expect, this direct-to-DVD effort fares no better than any of those other cash-in attempts.
Behind Enemy Lines II: Axis of Evil tries to set itself up as a sophisticated military thriller, but the results are laughable. I'll admit that I'm no expert on the Navy SEALs program, but I'd have to believe anyone who actually is would cringe seeing what director James Dodson (Deadly Rivals) puts his cast through. As it stands, here are the top five things I learned to do when trapped in enemy territory:
1. If chasing a little Korean girl, ensure that your entire SEAL team rushes after her en masse, and follows her directly into the center of a hostile Korean village.
2. Do not, under any circumstances, resort to shooting from a prone position. Remain standing at all times.
3. When being pursued by the North Korean army, be sure to sit on top of your vehicle sunning yourself while stopped in the middle of a road.
4. When downed in enemy territory, squat only in open fields when yelling into your radio set.
5. When you get a chance to shoot the enemy commander, don't. Instead, spare him because you are more alike than you ever realized.
The results garnered from employing these kinds of techniques aren't that impressive. The entire SEAL team manages to get shot (or out-right killed) in their very first skirmish, suggesting that a quartet of Girl Guides with slingshots might have fared better against a rural force of North Korean soldiers. If you're going to spend the entire first quarter of a movie playing up the abilities of a team, it's best to show them doing something besides getting shot to pieces the first time out of the gate.
Director Dodson isn't one of those lame-ass guys who are content with just letting the camera roll. Instead, he throws every trick in the bag onto the screen: jump cuts, shaky-cams, flash cuts, multiple filters, blurring. You want it, you got it. I don't think there was a single scene not doctored somehow with visual quirks. Do we really need sped-up cutting when two people are simply talking in an office? Even worse, action here is shot with so much shaky-cam work that it's nearly impossible to figure out what is going on. This kind of thing worked when it was new, but every military shooter now uses this technique, and it's starting to get old very fast.
The lame action scenes suffer further due to an interspersed series of flashbacks. Every time team leader Robert James (Nicholas Gonzalez, Dirty) gets into a jam, we flash back to a related training session led by grizzled officer Boytano (Keith David, Requiem for a Dream). David is a great character actor, but he hams it up so badly in the drill sergeant stereotype that the flashbacks illicit a groan every time they come up. The result is a constant, grinding halt in the action just when the bullets start to fly.
The acting in Behind Enemy Lines II: Axis of Evil is par for the course. Leading man Nicholas Gonzalez isn't terrible, but he has the kind of blandness that reeks of prime-time television dramas. Then again, how can you blame an actor who has only a barely-defined role to work from? The rest of the thespians here range from ineffective to marginally decent. Surprisingly, the only person who makes any impression is Dennis James Lee (Soap Girl), playing a Korean military officer who is not beyond betraying his country for the common good.
Behind Enemy Lines II: Axis of Evil does get a retro-award for the lamest 1980s titles effect still being used: whenever a location is introduced, little military-font letters bleep across the screen to explain where we are. This was a lovely throwback that I thought had been abandoned to the past, but apparently still makes it into B-grade action flicks.
Behind Enemy Lines II: Axis of Evil came to me on two screener discs, one in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen format and the second in full-screen (The packing suggests that this will be a flipper disc for retail release). The widescreen image is actually quite good, with black levels looking solid and colors properly displayed for the muted palettes the film makes use of. The audio offering here is an aggressive and well-balanced 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround track. 2.0 Dolby Digital audio tracks are offered in French, English and Spanish.
Special features include a commentary by director James Dodson, detailing the shoot in Bulgaria and the effort to make the story as relevant as possible. This is a decent commentary with minimal dead air, but Dodson seems to view every decision as a good one, ignoring the shortcomings in both plot and character. Also included are two featurettes: Exploring Behind Enemy Lines: Decision and Perception, which deals with behind-the-scenes action during the making of the film, and Communicating Behind Enemy Lines: A Look on Set which addresses the roles of each cast member and the training undergone by the actors. Rounding out the features is a trailer for the film and the original Behind Enemy Lines.
Poorly scripted and shot, there are few redeeming features in Behind Enemy Lines II: Axis of Evil. Those viewers looking for an action fix would be better off renting Under Siege for the fifteenth time than having to sit through this lemon of a shooter.
This court sentences Behind Enemy Lines II: Axis of Evil to a military firing squad.
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• Audio commentary by director James Dodson
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