Review: AMERICAN RENEGADES Can’t Defy The Tropes

FIRST IMPRESSION

American Renegades isn't awful — it's just frustratingly generic and offers little more than mindless action entertainment.

REVIEW OVERVIEW

Writing
Directing
Acting
Technical Merit

American Renegades is a new film directed by Steven Quale from a script by Richard Wenk and Luc Besson. It has long been delayed, but it is finally making its way to theaters and VOD. The film follows a group of Navy SEALS who plan a heist to recover underwater treasure in a Bosnian lake.

The biggest issue with this film is that it is extremely generic and relies too heavily on the tropes of the heist genre. It is entirely predictable and therefore isn’t nearly as exciting as it hoped it would be. Even the most generic heist films can become interesting if they use an interesting framing device, but the lost Nazi gold trope has been done so many times before too that it just isn’t interesting.

The characters aren’t particularly interesting either, and that doesn’t help the film as a whole. Jingoistic films like these rely on the audience’s blind patriotism to create sympathy for the characters with the audience. This is typically effective for the target audience, but is a cheap move nonetheless. This is why the opening scene of the film is seemingly unrelated to the main plot of the film — it shows the characters in military action so that the audience can get behind the characters as “American heroes”.

american renegades stapleton
Sullivan Stapleton as Matt Barnes in the EuropaCorp action film “AMERICAN RENEGADES”. Photo courtesy of EuropaCorp.

The dialogue is also downright laughable at times. The use of exposition is undeniably excessive, the film deciding to explain everything to the audience directly instead of using visual storytelling. Additionally, the film makes many lackluster attempts at comedic relief. Hearing an Oscar-winner say “Please don’t be arrogant and start waving your tiny little penises around!” is disappointing, to say the least.

The actors all seemed largely uninspired, as if they were simply phoning in their performances. Their delivery is mostly monotonous, lacking the charisma that makes this type of film successful. That being said, there are no real standouts as to who in the film was worst. They were all just uniformly bland. The only person who is a huge disappointment is J.K. Simmons. Even though he is no worse than anyone else in the cast, the fact that he went from some of his best work to this is frustrating.

american renegades simmons
J.K. Simmons as Levin in the EuropaCorp action film “AMERICAN RENEGADES”. Photo courtesy of EuropaCorp.

However, the film is sure to appeal to audiences wanting a straightforward action flick with guns, explosions, and not much in the way of brains. The pacing of the film is admirably breezy, jumping from set piece to set piece, not giving you enough time to analyze the deficiencies in the writing. It’s loud and distracting, though not particularly engaging, so it is may be able to find a life through late-night viewings.

The action scenes in the film are somewhat decent too. Although the planning of the heist is very generic, the heist itself feels unique and different. If only the film had spent a bit more time on the actual heist, it could have been much more enjoyable as a whole. The combat scenes aren’t bad either. The opening scene offers a surprising amount of suspense and excitement.

Overall, although American Renegades isn’t awful, it is mostly generic and forgettable. It’s amusing enough to watch on a rainy day, but doesn’t hold much other value.

American Renegades opens in theaters December 21 and is available on VOD beginning December 25.

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Sean Boelman
Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

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