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Film Reviews

Review – Black Site Delta

If there were awards for generic titles, Black Site Delta would win them. All of them. Those three little words tell you everything you need to know: The movie’s a militaristic action-thriller set on a decommissioned top-secret base. The “black site” is an off-the-books prison for the kind of clientele who’re too dangerous or too knowledgeable of the government’s secrets to be incarcerated anywhere else. But it’s also a cover for a long-range drone operation, which means that when terrorists hijack the facility, a dirty half-dozen inmates must band together to thwart the dastardly plot.

Nothing about this setup makes the slightest bit of sense. The prisoners have no idea where the base is and never leave their cells, but one of them, Taylor (Josh Brodsky), helpfully informs our hero, Jake (Cam Gigandet), who everyone is, what they did, and how they’re going to be useful in the next hour. If it’s explained how he has access to any of this information, I certainly missed it. Among the usual suspects are the hulking Hudson (Casey Hendershot), a former Army Ranger who got caught selling opium overseas; Diego (Dion Mucciacito), a Navy SEAL sniper whose kill-count sent him doolally; Simms (Ben Watson), a bookish technologist who used to work at the facility; and Vasquez (Teri Reeves), a kick-ass action chick whose backstory the movie treats as a plot point, so I’ll leave it alone.

Everyone’s present and correct, then. There’s even room for a quintessentially British terrorist leader (Michael Dale), and a coked-up Afghan warlord (Arash Mokhtar). The movie’s banking on you finding some novelty in the bad guys saving the day. But how bad are they, really? The two or three you’re supposed to care about and root for are all typical anti-establishment do-gooders, locked up for defending themselves or doing the right thing in spite of their orders. Everyone else is nakedly psychotic, so what’s the difference between them and the guys in balaclavas? This isn’t a movie that deals in moral ambiguity. The only fun deviation is Brodsky’s Taylor, a chattering, psychopathic stabbing-enthusiast, but even then, only because Guy Stevenson’s screenplay can’t keep his characterisation consistent.

2

This is a dark movie, too. I don’t mean thematically dark, although it kind of is, but literally dark. And that doesn’t feel like a stylistic choice, either – it just seems like the production couldn’t afford decent lighting. It’s a decidedly low-budget affair, of course, filmed entirely somewhere in Mississippi, but the action is so dominated by underlit interiors that it really could have been shot anywhere. What can be seen is mostly fine; there are some half-decent fistfights, and I’ve seen worse gunplay. The director is Jesse Gustafson, whose filmmaking is about as mechanical as the writing. It does the job, but not in a way that feels interesting or noteworthy.

The whole thing does reek of that bargain-bin just-because attitude, which is a shame considering that Black Site Delta manages to sidestep the tell-tale cheapness of bad visual FX. The action occurs on a human scale, and the actors (Cam Gigandet in particular, who’s a black belt in Krav Maga) sell it well enough. But that sense of corners being cut is never quite overcome; the cheapness and the laziness and the minimum amount of effort required in order to check particular genre boxes. It isn’t terrible, by any means, and I wouldn’t even say that it’s especially bad. If you’re a die-hard action aficionado, you might get 90 minutes of fun out of this. If you’re not, though, there’s no way that Black Site Delta will win you over. It’s a B-picture with a C-list cast and a D-grade sensibility. You know better than I do how much mileage you’ll get out of that.

4

 

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