With Christopher Olen Ray’s new movie, Assault On VA-33, you can pretty much stack this one as another thriller in line with the rest of all the other potboiler ‘Die Hard’ carbon copies you’ve probably seen by now, if you’re an avid viewer of action films and you live for the kind of star power that films like this one headline.
The film isn’t without its redeeming qualities, though apart from the admiration of watching action genre faves like Mark Dacascos and Michael Jai White, really, the plusses here all mainly boil down to the overall performances, led by Sean Patrick Flanery, who I can’t shut up enough about after seeing him in recent films such as American Fighter and Born A Champion.
Flanery plays Jake Hill, a PTSD survivor whose wife, Jennifer (Gina Holden), counsels at the local VA hospital in upstate New York where he’s beginning to attend. With the expected arrival of a well-respected military General, it’s not long before Jake begins to witness suspicious activity as men posing as elevator repairmen make their entry, leaving him desperate to summon the local police Chief (Michael Jai White) who simply chalks it up as another superfluous call.
With the hospital presumably under siege, no help in sight and daughter Sara (Sarah Elizabeth Jensen) waiting just outside out of harm’s way, Jake is forced to take action and pull Jennifer to safety. The battle inside the hospital turns explosive with Jake, now toe-to-toe with armed mercenaries led by Rabikov (Weston Cage Coppola), a madman who will stop at nothing to acquire the presumed release of his warlord brother from a black site facility, along with millions of dollars for his gun-toting cohorts.
Pretty much the only takeaways from Assault On VA-33 deal mainly with how admirable it is to see Flanery spearhead another actioner. He definitely plays the part with concentrated, immersive thought and consideration to the role and the story that permeates around him, and sadly, a lot of what comes with making films like these even remotely watchable falls routinely flat. White’s Malone is a hodpepodge of roles played by Reginald VelJohnson and Dennis Franz, with Coppola’s thickly-accented placeholder villain nearly sealing the deal on the film’s paint-by-numbers formula.
Dacascos, who built up his fandom of late in Netflix’s Wu Assassins and in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, gets in some screentime on both drama and action fronts in the role of Jackson – a sniper working for Rabikov – who eventually gets to throw hands with Flanery in one of the film’s few tolerable (and I use that term loosely) fight sequences. The film’s overall look, display and set pieces are suitable and give the film some watchable quality, so it all really depends on how you choose to gauge the rest of what’s presented here; What irked me the most were certain character decisions during key climactic moments of the film that just threw things off pace for me, and it made the story and its progression seem more contrived and silly the more I kept watching when I did.
I tuned out a few times from this one. I hate doing that and it’s a shame. I instantly recommend Born A Champion and American Fighter for those who are able to snag legitimate releases of it in their territory. If a generic, albeit passable rainy day popcorn flick is what you crave along with your action superfandom, you’re welcome to take a gander at Assault On VA-33, though I can’t guarantee you won’t be left with signs of shell shock.
Assault On VA-33 hails from Paramount and Saban Films, and opens in select theaters beginning April 2, and On Demand and Digital from April 6.