Behind Enemy Lines 2: Axis of EvilReviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 10/17/06 17:18:16
Talk about lucky timing: the direct-to-video sequel “Behind Enemy Lines II: Axis of Evil,” which deals with a nuclear North Korea, arrives on video store shelves a mere week after the nation announced to the world its success in testing a nuclear weapon. Factor in a screenplay that’s done its homework in terms of the modern history of the rogue nation, and maybe you’ve got yourselves an action film that’s smart enough to work as a cracking political thriller with timely issues.Or maybe not. The film is, after all, an in-name-only DTV sequel to an action movie nobody really cared about in the first place (and that includes me, who actually really liked the darn thing), and, well, it plays from start to finish like an in-name-only DTV sequel to an action movie nobody really cared about in the first place.
Written, directed, and co-produced by James Dodson (“Quest of the Delta Knights”), the film opens and closes with a bit of a current events lesson, as the indispensable Keith David narrates a run-down on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the many ways Kim Jong-Il has flipped the bird to the world. It’s a lengthy prologue, a bit too unnecessary, really - it basically exists to prove to renters that the people who made “Behind Enemy Lines II” are more knowledgeable about politics and world history than you’d expect from people who made “Behind Enemy Lines II.”
The film then ends with a bit of text discussing the mysterious mushroom cloud that appeared over North Korea in September 2004, a cloud which received multiple explanations from various political figures, all of whom were scrambling to remind the public that it wasn’t nuclear. Dodson takes this event and forms a fictionalized account of it. Well, sort of. We get a fictional president (Peter Coyote) and a few fictional advisors (one of them is designed to remind us of Condoleeza Rice, while others are strictly made-up), and for the most part, you wouldn’t even think to link this story to our real-life president were it not for the epilogue, which then sends viewers racing back in their memories to see if the movie was really trying to play Peter Coyote off as George W. Bush, which it wasn’t, so all the ending does is make things a big sloppy mess.
Nicholas Gonzalez and Matt Bushell play two Navy SEALs who wind up Behind Enemy Lines when they drop out of an airplane over North Korea as part of a secret mission to destroy a nuclear weapons facility. Problem is, right after they drop, the mission is aborted, so it’s just these two guys alone in enemy territory. They’re shot, captured, and tortured, all while the president sternly ponders the consequences of various battle scenarios.
Now, in the first movie, the whole thing was a bit of survival and rescue. Here, in the sequel, nobody really seems to care that these guys are gone. Sure, there’s some hemming and hawing from time to time, but for the most part, the idea of “let’s go in and save our buddies!” is strangely missing, replaced by a rather ridiculous bit of action movie cheese in which our heroes find themselves ready to take down that whole nuclear plant by themselves. (Oh, a handful of Koreans are occasionally willing to help, but they’re such empty stereotypes that they never count.)
The presidential scenes, meanwhile, never feel attached to the main plot; instead, they look like they were quickly filmed in the two or three days that Coyote and Bruce McGill (as a hawkish general) were available and then haphazardly edited into the rest of the story later (which is probably true). We’re watching two different movies here. (Three, if you count the goofy flashbacks that let us see the SEALs in training, where Keith David does his best Louis Gossett, Jr., teaching the heroes the exact same things they find themselves facing now that they’re, you know, Behind Enemy Lines.)
The whole thing is then padded with an endless array of annoying, trying-too-hard-to-look-cool Tony Scott-ish editing tricks. Freeze frames, slo-mo, the works. It’s clear that Dodson is hoping that a flashy presentation will cover a restrictive budget, but he goes too far, boring us by insisting on making every shot a snazzy one.Everything about “Behind Enemy Lines II” screams direct-to-video action cheapness. Gonzalez and Bushell are pretty vacant in their leading roles, the action scenes are loud but lifeless, and the whole thing could appeal only to regular renters of Richard Grieco thrillers. Not even the attempt to add prestige by casting Coyote works; despite a fine performance, it’s an empty role. And Dodson’s homework on North Korean history fails to show in the actual plot, which is about as believable an account of Korean politics as “Rambo III” was regarding Afghanistan in the late 1980s. This is a limp, cheesy B actioner gussied up with a semi-recognizable title, in the hopes that it won’t fall through the very cracks a movie like this deserves.
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