“All the Devil’s Men” is a great title for an action picture. It suggests mercenaries, “special ops,” assassins and rogue secret agents.
Which indeed “All the Devil’s Men” has in abundance.
Of course, it’s all downhill from there. But again, the title will pull a lot of people in. So call that a “win,” anyway.
It’s a convoluted thriller set to the “pfft pfft pftt” of automatic weapons with silencers, a tale of traitors and assassinations and acronyms and jargon, with a nuclear prize and Mr. “I work alone” hunting down the bad guys even though he’s proven right every time a fresh partner is stuffed in a body bag.
Milo Gibson, who has the blue eyes and can grow a mean beard but lacks the screen charisma of Daddy Mel, stars as Collins, the Bounty Hunter the CIA calls when the CIA’s own become turncoats.
Leigh (Sylvia Hoeks) is his testy “Control” agent (boss). And William Fitchner, last seen as the charismatic character actor trapped on “Top Gear America” between two young car boors, is Brennan, the cynical old hand assigned to help Collins track down the traitor McKnight (Eliot Cowan), who has been radicalized by his years of exposure to Islam. He’s “third on the president’s KILL list!”
Say what now?
Gbenga Akinnagbe (He worked with Gibson’s dad in “Edge of Darkness) is Pete, the third member of this team of bounty hunters, the loose cannon.
“Who’s a bounty hunter? I’m a shadow warrior!”
Their banter is all “XO” and Ex-Fil” and “OP” acronyms and special ops jargon about “third rate Haajis” and “Tangos” (terrorists) and cracks about Collins needing to get out — now. He’s just “a messed up war junkie who can’t go home because you guys won’t let’em…Go home, meet your kid, Mike!”
They track their rogue via his one known acquaintance, Deighton (Joseph Millson of TV’s “The Last Kingdom,” impressive in this part).
“It’s not personal. It’s just business.”
“What part of murdering my friend isn’t personal? I’ve gonna put you down, D.”
“Devil’s Men” has lots of shootouts, almost all of them featuring guys spitting at each other with silenced-pistols and “longs” (rifles). Only the last gunfight pops the silencers off. What, they didn’t have the right permits for making a lot of onscreen firearm noise? (It’s all looped in post-production, anyway.)
It’s another movie that plays up the possibilities that bad guys can hack your door locks (locking a quarry in so you can sidle up and shoot him through the window). Movies of this genre tend to emphasize the efficient, all-knowing lone killer. But I kept thinking about the vast support team that must be stashing his getaway cars and providing his tech and limitless supply of ammo. THAT’s a movie I’d like to see — We Also Serve who Stock Up the Safehouses.
Collins is given personal demons. He has to take “Go pills” to keep his focus and energy up. Writer-director Matthew Hope’s one nod to “style” is having Gibson’s Collins launch into a screaming jag — seen, but not heard, with only a plaintive chord on a synthesizer to reveal his anguish.
Again, permitting issue?
The final firefight is an Old West shootout in a vacant lot (torched cars, etc) with a lot of orders explaining the order of battle in such affairs.
“Keep your spacing. Kill anything that moves!”
“Mag change! Move MOVE!”
Followed, in the best John Wayne/Robert Mitchum tradition with “What say we settle the old fashioned way!?”
Through it all, our hero’s blue eyes pierce out of a face covered in blood, battered and not yet beaten. Milo looks a bit like his dad, more like Gerard Butler’s kid. Kind of a dull leading man, I have to say.
I liked the odd bad guy line — “Empires are destroyed from within. I am merely hastening the process.”
But “All the Devil’s Men” kills off its most interesting character too soon and traipses past story beats so familiar that taking notes on the film (as I always do) seems superfluous. It’s not a good B-actioner. It’s routine in the extreme.
Screenwriters really have to move beyond “This is PERSONAL” as a motivation for every character — scores to be settled, closure sought via bloodshed.
Very Old Testament. But considering who Milo’s Dad is, maybe that’s appropriate.
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, and for language throughout including some sexual references
Cast: Milo Gibson, Sylvia Hoeks, William Fichtner, Gbenga Akinnagbe
Credits: Written and directed by Matthew Hope. A Saban Films release.
Running time: 1:40