Movie Review: There’s little redeeming about “Redemption Day”

“Redemption Day” is a hostage thriller with a fixed deadline, a threatened beheading and the celebrated soldier married to the hostage hellbent on fighting his way to get to her.

“My cause is worthy of my death.

It has a rugged lead (Gary Dourdan) playing a combat vet battling personal demons and terrorists, a wild-eyed villain (Samy Naceri) and Andy Garcia and Martin Donovan as smirking bureaucrats who might help but are more likely to hinder the hero’s plans.

The action beats are by-the-book, the dialogue is straight out of four hundred earlier thrillers. “You speak English?” “I learn from American movies.” Lots of slapping and shouting and “LOOK at me when I talk to you!”

The good guys? “Stay with me! Don’t die on me!”

What it lacks is urgency, that heedless sense that the clock is ticking down and desperate measures are called for. It saunters along, giving the impression that one and all are not that concerned about the time, the stakes, any of this. It’s a strictly low-energy affair.

Captain Paxton was tested on a humanitarian mission ambushed in Syria. Flashbacks to that opening scene, which made his name, made him famous and yet haunts his dreams, are scattered through “Redemption Day.” Not that they seem to slow down our warrior. Not that there’s real “redemption” called for.

Wife Kate (Serinda Swan) is an archeologist who heads to Morocco to start a dig in a lost city covered by the desert. But the dig is on the border with ever-unstable Algeria, and yes, she’s taken and others are killed.

Garcia’s cigar-smoking U.S. ambassador and intelligence official Donovan have a leisurely chat about what to do. Back in the states, Paxton is fielding calls from a French Moroccan comrade-in-arms (Brice Bexter), kissing his teen daughter goodbye and getting advice from his veteran/boxing trainer dad (Ernie Hudson) as he packs his bags.

We go more than an hour into the film before our super-chill hero, Captain Brad Paxton, half-whispers “Let’s get this party started.” But considering he’s trying to save his wife, it’d be nice if Mr. “Rogue Assets” put a little more into that.

Dourdan, of TV’s “CSI” and “First Wives Club” is right on the cusp of adequate in action hero mode. He doesn’t give us a sense of struggle, makes it all look rehearsed. “Professional soldier” is one thing. But you’ve got to give us a little something to work with, a little edge, sass, charisma — SOMEthing.

Moroccan producer (French TV’s “The Bureau”) turned director Hicham Hajji has no sense of pace, and while he’s got “names” on board, he doesn’t give them much to chew on. The script has these half-hearted efforts to shoehorn third-act twists and political messaging into the picture, but they’re as a limp and obvious as one actor’s feigned southern drawl in the finale.

And there are also these random “actors” who seem joltingly inserted into the picture — like favors being repaid to the producer. A rotund, jeans-and-chains clad DJ Khaled look-alike multi-lingual (French and Arabic) “Moroccan” intel whiz who does all his laptop computing with his shades on, this mysterious Western woman popping up for a close-up or two, relatives of a producer, or investors?

A couple of decent firefights, some top-notch drone shots of assorted military and civilian desert dirt track convoys and a good villain is about all there is to recommend the mistitled “Redemption Day.”

MPA Rating: R for violence and language

Cast:  Gary Dourdan, Serinda Swan, Ernie Hudson, Samy Naceri, Martin Donovan, Brice Bexter and Andy Garcia

Credits: Directed by  Hicham Hajji, script by Sam Chouia, Lemore Syvan and  Hicham Hajji. A Saban release.

Running time: 1:39

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