“AKA” is a solid if generally unsurprising terrorist thriller built around a French undercover killing machine with “particular skills.”
“Lost Bullet” actor turned star and screenwriter Alban Lenoir leans on genre formula tropes and thriller cliches entirely too much in this somewhat sluggish outing, directed by “Lost Bullet” and “Lost Bullet 2” helmer Morgan S. Dalibbert.
We meet our hero as he’s being hustled into a remote terrorist hideout in the mountains of Libya, one of those cave lairs that make you wonder “Who makes, sells and ships them their pre-fab hostage-holding prison cells?”
He affects an escape through that classic French “Papillon” use-your-bum trick, reassuring a non-government organization aid worker/activist being held that she’s “going home.” Our unnamed assassin then slaughters every AK-47 wielding Arab in sight.
But something about the mission seems “off the books,” and when this fellow gets home, we see Adam Franco, as we learn he’s called, commissioned to do more “unofficial” and unauthorized work. His country, or some folks in it, need him to track down a Sudanese terrorist (Kevin Layne) who blew up something in Paris and is sure to blow again.
Franco’s boss (Thibault de Montalembert) orders him to infiltrate a French gang whose leader (Éric Cantona) is cozy with this ex-smuggler/terrorist.
Let the genre conventions commence!
This time Franco will use his own background — something happened in his childhood that made him infamous, and he later spent years in the French Foreign Legion — to join Victor’s gang, make himself useful with his “particular skills” and throw his weight around as he hunts for clues.
Pee Wee (Saïdou Camara) is who he’s paired up with in the gang. Victor’s wife (Sveva Alviti) who runs a club/brothel must be impressed. The teen daughter (Lucille Guillaume) must be tolerated. And their bullied little boy Jonathan (Noé Chabbat) must learn to idolize this walking muscle who is now his driver, protector and boxing instructor.
Of course there’s a gang war that Franco is walking into even as he’s supposedly frantic to find this terrorist who is expected to strike again. And there are government intrigues that hint at why this operation is both hush-hush, with more than a whiff of “extra-legal.”
Lenoir is a perfectly credible man of action, unlike all these thrillers that have Neeson, Gibson, Stallone or Denzel throwing haymakers well into their AARP dotage. The fights are well-choreographed, the shoot-outs well-staged, if seemingly a bit arbitrary.
These guys learned a few things making two “Lost Bullet” movies, both of which were on a much higher plane than “AKA.”
But the incidents, relationships and even the intrigues here are all over-familiar tropes, which prevents this competently-made thriller ever rise to the level of engaging.
Rating: TV-MA, graphic violence
Cast: Alban Lenoir, Sveva Alviti, Kevin Layne, Éric Cantona, Saïdou Camara, Thibault de Montalembert and Lucille Guillaume
Credits: Directed by Morgan S. Dalibert, scripted by Morgan S. Dalibert and Alban Lenoir A Netflix release.
Running time: 2:04