Harrowing Military Thriller Viscerally Captures Combat

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A Delta Force extraction team with a novice communications officer relies on a stalwart drone pilot when their top-secret mission becomes compromised. Land of Bad is a taut and harrowing military thriller that viscerally captures the real-time stakes of bloody combat. There are no foolish heroics or snappy catchphrases as a ruthless enemy exacts merciless revenge. Swift coordination becomes the key to survival in a dire, constantly evolving situation. A sobering narrative depicts the fortitude, professionalism, and lethal expertise needed by soldiers and command in the unexpected, worst-case scenario.




In the Southeastern Philippines, Sergeant JJ “Playboy” Kinney (Liam Hemsworth), a young Air Force TACP (Tactical Air Control Party) officer, steadies himself for a dangerous assignment. A JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) operative has been captured by a Russian mercenary. Master Sergeant John “Sugar” Sweet (Milo Ventimiglia) will lead a black ops unit to recover the valuable asset. Sugar asks the nervous Playboy if he’s ever done a HALO (high altitude, low opening) jump. Playboy replies it’s only his second mission…the first in theater. Sugar advises him to focus and do his job. They’ll handle the shooting when needed.


Sergeants Abell (Luke Hemsworth) and Bishop (Ricky Whittle) playfully mock Playboy before they leap out of the transport at 30,000 feet. Playboy doesn’t exactly stick the landing but makes it unscathed. He establishes communication with Captain Eddie “Reaper” Grimm (Russell Crowe) and Sergeant Nia Branson (Chika Ikogwe) at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada. Reaper will pilot an MQ-9 drone while Branson operates the camera and monitors the troops.


Milo Ventimiglia Is Excellent as Sugar

Land of Bad

Land of Bad

3.5/5

Release Date
February 16, 2024

Runtime
1hr 50min

Studio
Volition Media Partners, Broken Open Pictures, Highland Film Group (HFG)

Pros

  • There are no cliche, over-the-top heroic scenes or catchphrases, as the characters take their dire situation seriously.
  • Land of Bad has plenty of heart-pumping scenes to keep audiences on the edge of their seat.
  • The film does its best to show the horrors of war, far surpassing any expectations.
Cons

  • Too much time is spent on unnecessary subplots, taking time away from the engaging central storyline.

Sugar leads his men through the dense jungle to a compound near a dam. He orders Playboy to establish a viewpoint as they move in closer. Playboy identifies their Russian primary target, but the operative is nowhere to be found. Suddenly, Branson notifies them that a convoy of armed trucks is approaching the dam. Abu Sayyaf, local Islamic militants, and their leader, Saeed Hashimi (Robert Rabiah), have come to meet the Russian. Sugar assesses that they’re outmanned and outgunned but will proceed with the mission as planned. Playboy notifies Reaper, their eye in the sky, to be ready for anything.


Land of Bad illustrates the fog of war and its deadly consequences. The hardened, badass Sugar isn’t going to do anything stupid or reckless. He could never have predicted the sh*t storm that explodes before them. The raging shootout that ensues devolves into utter chaos. Playboy, who’s never fired his rifle in combat, becomes pivotal to their escape. He must direct Reaper and Branson to engage the terrorists from above while trying not to get killed himself. Your adrenaline will shoot through the roof as Playboy, Sugar, and their brothers-in-arms battle through a hornet’s nest.

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Director/co-writer William Eubank (The Signal, Underwater) delivers nail-biting tension on every front while brilliantly contrasting command and control at Nellis with the Philippines bloodbath. Reaper and Branson, glued to their drone station screens, are active participants in the fight. They need to guide and protect the unit while figuring out an extraction plan. The drone delivers death from above but is limited in its capacity. It’s all hands on deck, as multiple airstrikes are needed to give the soldiers a chance. Each piece of the puzzle is critical, but Murphy’s Law inexorably prevails. The bad guys aren’t foolish. They realize their technical and firepower disadvantage but have the numbers and tactical awareness to even the odds.

Land of Bad Features Plenty of Gut-Wrenching Scenes


Eubank’s script uses a lot of military terminology but smartly explains everything in context as the narrative progresses. He’s able to add depth and realism when needed, especially as emotional and physical strain take hold. The soldiers aren’t robots. Playboy’s mental state wavers as desperation and fear consume him. Reaper must reinforce his will to survive from thousands of miles away as a calming, inspirational voice. Get up, son! Run for your life! We’re in this together! Crowe, a titan of the screen, and Hemsworth, superb in a demanding role, are fantastic at portraying a gripping relationship.

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Land of Bad has phenomenal pacing, but Eubank does spend too much time on unnecessary subplots. Reaper’s ex-wives, his current pregnant wife, and conflicts with his superior officers deviate from the riveting action. His personal problems play an important part in the climax. Eubanks wants to show the folly of bureaucracy when lives are on the line. That’s clearly evident without introducing additional material to an already detailed story. ​​​​​​​

There are quite a few surprises here. Some of them are gut-wrenching. Bishop warns Playboy in the first act that all of his gear amounts to nothing once the bullets start flying. War is pure hell. You must become a savage to survive. Land of Bad exceeds expectations by a mile. The film is a production of Volition Media Partners, R.U. Robot, Highland Film Group, and Broken Open Pictures. Land of Bad will be released theatrically on Feb. 16. from The Avenue.


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