While some parts of writer/director Hicham Hajji’s freshman feature, Redemption Day, can be a bit touch and go from some technical and creative aspects, the bulk of it largely plays as a straightforward, somewhat layered espionage Taken-style thriller, with actor Gary Dourdan leading the charge and in fine form. The form could’ve otherwise been shot better but, more on that later.
What begins with a five-minute oner leading to an explosive gun battle signals itself as a flashback moment that introduces our hero, Captain Brad Paxton, military hero home from service now working as a security expert and living with his wife, Kate (Serinda Swan), daughter Clair (Lilia Hajji) and boxing coach father, Ed (Ernie Hudson).
It’s revealed that Brad suffers from PTSD which leads to some pretty stifling sleep discomfort and other things, though he can certainly count on Ed to help keep Brad grounded when he becomes distant, at one point reminding him to respect his wife’s love. It’s a worthwhile moment of foreshadowing as the film moves forward with its development.
As Kate embarks to Morocco to lead an eventful archeological dig, by the time they arrive, she and her team are violently captured by an Islamic State-sympathetic terrorist cell led by Jafaar El Hadi (Sami Naceri), and it’s only a matter of time before she realizes the traitor among her crew. Within minutes, Brad is on the first plane to Morocco, in reunion with former UN soldier Younes (Brice Bexter), now working at the Morocco office of U.S. Ambassador Earl Williams (Andy Garcia).
With the clock ticking closer to Kate and her crew’s presumed execution, Kate is left to her own devices to survive her harrowing imprisonment while Brad and Younes work to gather intel. When Jafaar sends out a $10 million dollar video demand, Brad and Younes act fast in their covert operation to find Jafaar’s terrorst encampment and stop him once and for all.
Political and corporate corruption are a just little more of an afterthought as the silent backdrop of our story in Redemption Day, as this aspect of the film doesn’t really come full circle just before the end credits when we meet actor Robert Knepper’s character. For this, it’s more important to focus on Brad’s arc as he treads the diplomatic terrain with Younes whilst searching for his wife.
All in all, the film is an entertaining espionage thriller with some qualifications. I won’t go into the nitpicks but gun battles are pretty much paint-by-numbers, while the only real moment of fisticuffs in the third act is wasted with sloppy shoe-leather editing and quick cuts. The choreography is simplistic enough and performed to a degree that the fight, while brief and intermediate, should’ve been a shining moment for Dourdan as an action star in his own right.
Seeing Hudson in the role of Dourdan’s father lends an appeal to fans of the actor’s work, joined by the ample and worthwhile performances of Dourdan, Swan and Hicham’s own daughter, Lilia who plays Brad’s on-screen daughter, Claire. The agency of Garcia’s role is made clear during scenes with U.S. Section Chief Tom Fitzgerald (Martin Donovan), alluding to the aforementioned corruption elements of the story.
There are some areas of improvement that would have made Redemption Day an even finer watch than it is. Whatever you take from Hajji’s directing debut on that note, just know that you’ll be in for a treat if espionage spy thrills are your speed and happen to be fan of the lead actor as he carries an albeit promising and watchable thriller, with great characters and ample story execution aside from the frills.
Saban Films will release the action film REDEMPTION DAY In Theaters January 8, 2020 and On Digital and On Demand January 12, 2020.