Directed by: Christian Sesma
Screenplay: Christian Sesma & Cecil Chambers
Starring: Luke Goss, RZA, Bokeem Woodbine, Heather Roop & Louis Mandylor
Director Christian Sesma and star Luke Goss seem to have a good thing going and re-team, after the flawed but very fun genre bending action film The Night Crew, for a more serious effort in AWOL-72. Unfortunately this second go around for the two isn’t quite as good (or anywhere near as entertaining) as their previous effort. Goss is Conrad Miller an ex-marine who has gone AWOL with some secret government information. Waking one morning, he sets off across country hoping to deliver said info to his contact but things go from bad to worse when he stops to help out a troubled young lady. Meanwhile, the LAPD, some Russian heavies and a mysterious assassin are hot on his trail hoping to get to him before he passes the information on.
Whereas The Night Crew was streamlined, action packed, mashed genres and had enough heavy artillery to arm to several action films, AWOL-72 is a much more serious, albeit low key, thriller more concerned with twists and turns than big shoot-em up action scenes. It’s cool Sesma and Goss have attempted something different here (presumably burning through some left over money they didn’t use shooting up the motel in The Night Crew!) and while there are certain narrative surprises (that this yahoo reviewer didn’t see coming!) and a little bit of stylish action come the climax, AWOL-72 falters with too many ideas and too many characters.
What should have been a taut and tight little thriller often feels dragged out and clogged up with too much going on. RZA’s cop on the case, who teams up with a Russian agent to find Connor, has little to do and his narrative strand doesn’t really go anywhere: though nice to see RZA playing it straight and getting to act a bit. Likewise, Connor’s journey to deliver said information takes s few unexpected turns but too much time is wasted on these divergent plot strands when the focus should have been on his quest and Bokeem Woodbine’s ruthless assassin who is relentlessly pursuing him. This unfortunately means the thriller element has very little urgency (save for the last 10-15 minutes when proceedings come alive!) and scenes of lengthy dialogue stretch on and on meaning that even the brisk 75 minute run time can feel a bit like a slog.
Still, getting past the negatives AWOL-72 is stylishly shot, Luke Goss makes for a commanding leading man (let’s get him in a big budget action film again!), the final fifteen minutes has some nicely staged gunplay and hand-to-hand fights (there should have been more of this), the supporting cast of familiar faces is a welcome touch and, well, Sesma certainly fills the running time with a plethora of beautiful women. Seriously, there is barely a scene without an attractive woman featured and this certainly helps during the more sluggish sections. Overall, not bad and a decent stab at a serious thriller on a budget but The Night Crew is much more fun and is a better showcase for Sesma’s and Goss’ obvious talent.