Huh. Here's an in-name-only direct-to-video sequel to an in-name-only direct-to-video sequel, produced by WWE Films, starring a pro wrestler, directed by an actor whose only behind-the-camera experience has been in television. And it's pretty darn good.
"Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia" follows the unbearably dull "Behind Enemy Lines II: Axis of Evil" in a franchise nobody really wanted, and that includes the makers of "Behind Enemy Lines." But Tim Matheson, the veteran actor who's graduated to TV movies (plus the occasional episode of "Burn Notice" and "Criminal Minds"), reveals a knack for handling quick-and-dirty productions, which makes this effort from WWE - the same schmucks who gave you "The Condemned" and "The Marine" - a grimy delight, a B movie that zips along nicely enough to thrill you with solid action sequences. "Colombia" has the flair of a rough 80s actioner, something along the lines of a Chuck Norris cheapie from the Golan-Globus gang, only slicker.
The film opens with some documentary-style exposition on the Colombian revolutionary group FARC, although all you really need to know is that some people will want to shoot our heroes, and some will not. To its credit, the screenplay (by rookie scribe Tobias Iaconis) cleverly avoids such clear distinctions; our main villain (Yancey Arias) is conflicted, torn between accepting peace and getting revenge. While it's not the sort of character depth that makes high drama (our baddie's initial motivations are clichéd and ham-fisted), it works here, providing an extra layer of interest to the shoot-'em-up proceedings, especially in later scenes.
Our heroes for this chapter are a group of Navy SEALs, sent to do a little surveillance on what turns out to be an armistice meeting between Colombian soldiers and FARC leaders. Things go wrong, as they always must in this type of movie, with our villain leading his own faction in order to disrupt the peace conference. Two SEALs wind up dead, a third is captured, and it's up to our heroes - Lt. Sean Macklin (Joe Manganiello, from "One Tree Hill") and Chief Carter Holt (the impossibly named wrestling superstar "Mr. Kennedy") - to rescue their pal and save the day, preferably by blowing up as much crap as possible.
Literally, in fact: in one scene, the SEALs fill a car with manure (a ploy to trick the enemies' thermal scopes and whatnot) before making it go all a-splodey. Everything goes all a-splodey here, and the things that don't get shot up to no end. But unlike the mindless action of "Axis of Evil," the mindless action in "Colombia" is presented with a lively energy, while its two stars have a charisma that keeps things plowing ahead nicely. It's all macho goofiness, but it's the good kind of macho goofiness.
There's a subplot involving Keith David as the commander back in the States and the CIA goons (Matheson gives himself a nice small role here) who take over the operation, saving face for the government. It's all standard filler, existing merely to give us an extra villain to boo, but it does present some interesting ideas. "Colombia," like "Axis of Evil," is pretty much a sales pitch for the military - it even ends with a Keith David voiceover championing the spirit and honor of the American soldier, the same sort of Keith David voiceover currently heard in countless recruitment commercials - but consider the dynamics of the thing. Here's a film that celebrates military leadership while criticizing civilian interference. You Pentagon jerks just need to leave us be, the movie seems to say. We career Navy folks got this covered just fine without you.
Oh, but that's just a side thought, one that probably makes "Colombia" seem far more complex than it actually is. This isn't a study in Washington politics or international diplomacy. It's a sleek "Rambo" rip-off, plain and simple (very, very simple), one that's built entirely to thrill, with big men and big explosions. There's plenty of military jargon and bumper sticker rhetoric and even a few nifty shout-outs to other, better action flicks. As far as big, dumb shoot-'em-ups go, "Colombia" makes for a surprisingly fun time.
Note: Fox has supplied us with another of their crummy watermarked DVD-R screener copies, and not final shelf product. As such, parts of this review must go incomplete. If a final retail version arrives, we'll update this review accordingly.
Video & Audio
As mentioned, there's no comment on the video quality, since our version was watermarked and compressed. The film will be presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. This review will be updated if a final shelf version arrives.
The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack makes ample use of the surround feature, filling the speakers with booming sound effects. The dialogue comes through cleanly, as does the music, but really, you just want to hear things go boom, and this mix delivers. Optional English, French, and Spanish subtitles are included.
Matheson, Manganiello, and Mr. Kennedy team up for a fun, breezy commentary, filled with the usual here's-how-we-did-it stuff as well as plenty of lighthearted chatter. They obviously had a blast making the film, and their affection spills over here.
Not so enjoyable is a second commentary track, this one featuring a couple guys from IGN. It's billed as a "fan commentary," but really, since the movie is brand new, how could it already have fans? They pulled the same stunt with the DTV horror flick "Flight of the Living Dead," but unlike that fun track, this one's a bust, as the guys ramble on about nothing of interest beyond how one of them used to live next door to Mr. Kennedy.
Six featurettes combine to make one unexpectedly complete (if fluffy) making-of (37:58 total; 1.78:1 anamorphic). The titles pretty much explain it all: "The Big Guns: Military Action on Film," "Colombia Norte: On Location in Puerto Rico," "The Rockets Red Glare: Explosions Explained," "The Art of the Fall: Stunt Secrets," "Comedy in Colombia: Bloopers & Other Relief," and "Stars with Stripes: Casting Joe & Mr. Kennedy." They're all lightweight pieces, yet highly enjoyable.
A batch of previews for other Fox titles rounds out the set; a separate batch plays as the disc loads.
It's this simple: If you like big, loud, dopey, old school-style action movies, you'll like "Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia." Recommended.