Screener Review: AWOL-72 (2015)


I've been following director Christian Sesma for a few years now since covering his earlier work on the once-upon-a-time webseries, Vigilante Diaries. That project is still in full bloom as we speak, while his latest film, AWOL-72 is now heading for a release this month in the U.S. and the U.K., and certainly serves its purpose for the R-rated action film crowd.

Actor Luke Goss and actress Heather Roop lead the story of Conrad Miller, a former soldier on the run when he's discovered to have sold Cold War secrets to ex-KGB. With just three days to get out of the country with the woman he loves and their child on the way, he faces a few misadventures before he can steer clear of danger, including hillbilly human traffickers, crooked cops, two relentless detectives, and assassins who will stop at nothing to find him and kill him.

The film takes on a bit of an anti-heroic tone though you can't help but root for Goss's character, as he goes out of his way to help friends in need, often with tragic consequences. With this in mind, the plot is pretty simple in its delivery apart from most of its characters with a few twists about who the real "good guys" are in the film. I also least expected Roop's character, Laura, to be more than just the female supporting role here as she proves slightly more pivotal to the film's progress than expected.

The acting and dialogue throughout is very good as well, and most notably among the primary cast is actor RZA who turns in a decent performance when he's not trying to be a badly-costumed ninja master or a kung fu hero. Point in fact, credit here goes to Sesma and writer Cecil Chambers who give RZA probably one of the best lines I've ever heard in a film to date.

Most of the smaller roles were useful as well in driving the film's subplot, but it's Leif Gantvoort who turns in one of the more memorable performances in the film as well, and keeps things exciting when things slow down by the film's second act. Actor Bokeem Woodbine, reuniting with Sesma since their previous get-together, The Nightcrew, leaves a noteworthy impression as a government assassin with tons of substance illustrated nicely in the few scenes he shares with Goss as the film explores their scant military history.

The action was a little too rigorous with the camera here and there. Still, stunt coordinator Arnold Chon's sequences were fun to watch with some great moments throughout the second and third act, including Woodbine and actress Mary Christina Brown who shows she can hold her own.

AWOL-72 isn't a great film, but it rescues itself with some pretty cool and redeeming moments. It's not long before the film shows a little skin in an opening love scene but it's pretty lowbrow, and the exposition takes a little while to get going with pseudo-protagonists you can't fully sympathize with aside from cheering them on when the bullets start flying. The ending, however, is what's a little more compelling though, and encapsulates the overall dark millieu the film marinates itself in with characters full of shades of grey, and even more evil characters that definitely need some disposing, something which does Goss's tough-guy screen persona some justice.

As for Sesma, his work here is a slightly tamer than normal, but I wouldn't be too worried with what he has in store after this.


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