Friday, September 22, 2023

‘Interceptor’ Lets Elsa Pataky Kick Butt

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Interceptor is a cheap throwback to a cheap lowdown meat and potatoes action movie we don’t make much anymore. Though it never rises above chintzy fun, it also wastes little time worrying about what is plausible or not. It’s a kind of dum-dum fun.

Directed and co-written by Matthew Reilly, Interceptor lunges from one gruesome action scene to the next. It does so with little care for such luxuries as plot, character motivations, or any semblance of logic. But, to give Reilly and his co-writer Stewart Beattie’s credit, they seem to understand what they want to do. Spin the narrative wheels and show off Pataky’s charisma and presence.

The plot, such as it is, concerns Captain J.J. Collins (Elsa Pataky), a woman who finds herself back at her old stomping grounds, SBX-1. A missile defense base in the Pacific Ocean with the sole purpose of intercepting any nukes Russia might feel like firing our way. The movie tells us there are only two interceptor bases in the country. One is Fort Greely in Alaska, and the other is SBX-1.

Terrorists have taken over Fort Greely and are on their way to SBX-1. Fortunately for us, Captain Collins is there to kick ass and chew bubblegum-and she’s all out of bubblegum. Thankfully, Pataky is more than up to the challenge.

Interceptor rises and falls on whether or not you buy Pataky as the dour, cynical hard-bitten Captain. I did; it’s impossible not to. However, whatever issues I may have with the film, they are not with Pataky, who, given the right vehicle, has the makings of an action star.

Between her and Luke Bracey, who plays the lead terrorist Alexander Kessel, there’s enough charm and charisma to keep Reilly and Beattie’s script afloat. Interceptor is one of those movies that wears its cheapness on its sleeves, to be perfectly blunt. At one point, the bad guys try to sink the base, only to have Corporal Rahul Shah (Mayen Mehta) stop it at the last minute. Shah is promptly killed, but the plan to sink the base is soon forgotten. 

Why? Because there is no room in the budget to show a sinking military base. However, there’s plenty of room to imply the possibility, if only temporarily.

Interceptor is executive produced by Chris Hemsworth, Pataky’s husband. He has a small role as a salesman in an electronics store. Reilly periodically cuts back to Hemsworth watching the terrorist plan unfold on one of his big-screen TVs. The terrorists have managed to hack into the EBS (Emergency Broadcast System) and show the world. Hemsworth is instantly recognizable despite the shaggy beard and long hair; they can’t hide that smile. 

It’s sweet that Hemsworth is playing a character who is cheerleading the character played by his wife. Even more, so that he’s producing a whole movie to do so. Pataky more than earns it as she nails every close-up and medium shot. Half of what makes Interceptor entertaining is Pataky.

But Interceptor too often becomes the Pataky show. There’s a lot of time dedicated to her backstory. She transferred off SBX-1, worked for a five-star General, and got sexually harassed. J.J. coming forward and reporting her superior was followed by the predictable fallout of how her fellow service members reacted to her accusations. This is how we know puny mercenaries can’t beat her because she’s been a woman in the US Army. Trite as it may be, it takes up a lot of the run time at the expense of literally everyone else.

Pataky isn’t alone in most scenes, but you could be forgiven for thinking she is as Reilly often frames her off by herself or keeps Mehta’s Shah in the background. For example, Pataky’s J.J. fights a blonde-haired knife-wielding woman in one scene. The fight goes so long that J.J. utters the cliche line, “Just die already.” Throughout the whole scene, Shah is tied to a chair, unconscious. Afterward, he magically comes to and looks around, amazed at J.J.’s Rambo-esque antics.

Still, it is hard to be mad at a movie with its heroine one-armed monkey swinging along the bottom of a sea base. At one point, she pauses when she sees an inexplicable giant gap between the handles. I couldn’t help but laugh as she swang her body back and forth, preparing herself to use the momentum of her body to leap across the gap. A picture of Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock ramping a bus over a hole in the unfinished LA freeway flashed through my mind.

Understand; Interceptor is nowhere near as good as Speed. But it has the same gleeful silliness about it at times. There are beheadings, long-drawn-out monologues that exist purely to lead up to a wisecrack, and villains who find themselves back at square one. It’s not Shakespeare; hell, it’s not even Cannon Studios. Think a rung or two above a SyFy original movie.

Not to mention I must admit to wearing a smirk on my face as I watched a movie where most of the “terrorists” were white, and all that stood between us and certain death was a woman who had been sexually harassed and harangued by her peers and a Kiwi. Granted, it helps that Interceptor is American by way of Australia, but still, it was a nice change of pace.

Ross Emery’s camera never once tries to convince us that SBX-1 is a real place. A Colonel’s office is the size of a janitor’s closet. The main room where all the action takes place is filled with things that only make sense because they eventually come into play later in the movie. The production design feels as if maybe the crew is riffing on the Sattelite of Love from “Mystery Science Theater 3000”.

In another world, if Interceptor were just a little bit worse, and didn’t have the likes of Pataky and Bracey, maybe Joel and the robots would be forced to watch it. But in this world, I found myself entertained while it was on. Still, don’t quiz me on it, for the longer I get away from the movie, the less I remember. But if you need something on to kill time, look no further than Interceptor. 

Images courtesy of Netflix

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  • Jeremiah

    Jeremiah lives in Los Angeles and divides his time between living in a movie theatre and writing mysteries. There might also be some ghostbusting being performed in his spare time.

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