A Surprisingly Entertaining Action Thriller
A covert NSA assassin and DEA agent unwittingly cross paths in Mexico to thwart a terrorist attack. Black Warrant shouldn’t be this funny and entertaining. The standard save the world plot relies on impossible coincidences to fuel a second act twist that’s completely unbelievable. You’d think that would disqualify the film as being another forgettable actioner. Imagine my surprise to be actually smiling when the credits rolled. Likable primary characters and a stable of interesting goons kept my attention throughout.
In Tijuana, Mexico, DEA Agent Anthony Van Owen (Cam Gigandet) suffers a crushing loss during a narcotics raid. He accidentally snags a money launderer (Jonathan Avigdori) wanted by multiple international law enforcement agencies. The scumbag offers a deal to spill on a bigger target with a plan to crash the global economy.
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Meanwhile, at a local yacht marina, Nicky (Tom Berenger), gets an unexpected visit from an old friend and colleague. Larusso (Jeff Fahey) needs the retired government shadow operative for an urgent mission. A threat long thought gone has resurfaced with new allies. The United States has issued “black warrants” for their immediate termination.
Nicky quickly proves he hasn’t lost his killer instincts. Anthony wonders what’s stirring up a hornets nest in Tijuana. He gets his answer surveilling Bin-Farri (Hani Al Naimi), a wealthy businessman and cultural philanthropist. The city mysteriously plunges into darkness. A battery-powered camera reveals the outage wasn’t an accident.
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Tom Berenger’s Formidable Screen Presence
Berenger, an actor I’ve watched since childhood, has formidable screen presence. There’s something magnetic about his delivery that carries a scene. Nicky goes through a surprising range of emotions as the story progresses. He’s cold-blooded in dispatching baddies but isn’t a psychopath. Nicky has paid a significant price for country and duty.
Gigandet’s infectious charm tones down the machismo but still puts boots to behinds when needed. He’s had a solid career playing supporting roles in popular films (Twilight, The Magnificent Seven) and television series (The O.C.). Gigandet takes advantage of his leading man opportunities. This is the second actioner he’s starred for prolific director Tibor Takacs (Blowback). He has a casual ease that makes the hero easy to root for. Gigandet and Berenger have the reciprocal dynamic essential to gun-toting partners in an action film.
The curveball thrown halfway will probably elicit audible groans. It’s a stretch to say the least. Normally, my brain would have checked out after witnessing something so inane. Black Warrant ropes you back by taking the narrative in a slightly different direction. The antagonist’s diabolical intentions hit a bump in the terrorist road. Some may find this turn as a letdown, but again I was still hooked.
Black Warrant succeeds as a pure action film. It’s not wall-to-wall with cheesy overkill. The gunplay is grounded in realism. Nicky doesn’t need more than a few shots to accomplish his goals. There are no relentless onslaughts of bullet fodder. Concise violence gets the job done. Black Warrant won’t win any script awards but works well enough as a ninety-minute diversion.
Black Warrant is a production of Premiere Entertainment Group and Beno Films. It will have a limited theatrical and concurrent VOD release on December 9th from Saban Films.