Netflix's latest big budget action movie arrives this Friday.
There is a particular type of movie made by Hollywood that you could affectionately call a 'January Blockbuster', but more accurately, they are bad movies with big budgets that get dumped into cinemas in the first month of the year when there is very little competition, with the hopes that the lack of options will at least lead to a minor profit.
While cinemas are currently closed, it nice to see that Netflix are attempting to keep that tradition alive with Outside The Wire, their latest venture into the world of big budget action films, a genre that has proven not to be their strong suit to date.
As their sizzle reel for 2021 reveals, this could be the year they turn it around in that market, but they haven't gotten off to a great start here, with a movie that your brain will actively be forgetting as you're watching it.
Set in the 2036, there is a civil war raging throughout Europe, and the U.S. is here to help calm everything down (proof that this is science fiction). Drone pilot Harp (Damson Idris) is sent to the frontline of the war after he disobeys a direct order that gets two soldiers killed, and he is partnered up with Leo (Anthony Mackie), a high-ranking military officer who is also secretly an android.
They set off on a humanitarian mission to deliver cholera medication, which soon - somehow - morphs into a hunt for Koval (Pilou Asbæk), an extremist who wants to get his hands on abandoned nuclear missiles. The plot actually keeps resetting itself every fifteen minutes or so, usually explained to us in the settling dust of an action sequence, and for the most part, isn't particularly interesting.
As for those action sequences, the hand-to-hand combat stuff comes off well, with Mackie handling himself well as an action star, but anything that requires scale or special effects looks cheap and restricted, with the robot soldiers joining Harp and Leo in the battles looking less impressive than similar creations we watched in District 9, a movie that came out 12 years ago.
The nods and influences don't stop there, as you'll find plot beats and action scenes borrowed from The Terminator, Black Hawk Down, Children of Men, 13 Hours, Robocop, and so many more, without ever getting nearly as interesting or inventive as any of them.
It also doesn't help that Idris' character is straight-up unlikeable; the script probably intended for him to come off as confident and naive, but it lands as arrogant and idiotic. Mackie fares slightly better, performance-wise, but his character is also a total mess, especially once it gets into the weeds of the third act and the script has nothing better to do than pull out plot-twist after plot-twist.
Outside The Wire has the stale air of been-there, watched-that, but without the IQ or the budget to improve upon what has come before. It feels like an algorithm of action movies and science-fiction movies, smushed together in a that way mathematically should add up to something better, but it simply doesn't. Instead, while the overlong two-hour runtime isn't entirely without moments of watchability, the whole thing just feels incredibly lazy.
That should be evident from an early conversation in which Leo is listing off Harp's drone pilot credentials, and mentions that he has logged 56,000 flight hours. That would mean Harp has been piloting a drone for at least eight hours a day, seven days a week, for more than 19 years.
See what we mean? It sounds cool, until you realise they were too lazy to actually do the math on it.
Outside The Wire is available to watch on Netflix from Friday, January 15.