Review: Interceptor

Interceptor

Trailer

That steely glare can stop some missiles.

Posted to an isolated missile defence base in the middle of the Pacific Ocean after exposing sexual harassment within the American military and becoming the target of a hate campaign, Captain J.J. Collins (Elsa Pataky) despairs of her career prospects. But when this vital part part of the America’s shield against nuclear attack is the subject of an insidious conspiracy to negate it, led by an ex-intelligence operative with a grudge named Alexander Kessel (Luke Bracey), Collins may be the only person who can stop the destruction of the United States.

I do feel a little for Elsa Pataky. She’s a perfectly fine actor, and she does good work as an action lead in this, a film that marries a very traditional “Murica”-style of patriotic story-telling with some very obvious nods towards the #metoo movement. But Netflix, and some of the people who made this, just don’t really seem to care all that much. No, they seem primarily interested in getting you to realise that Pataky’s husband, Chris Hemsworth, produced the film, which is the first thing stated in the plot description, while Hemsworth himself has a not-so-subtle cameo appearance at several points. In essence, whether he wanted to or not, Hemsworth is sucking some of the attention away from Pataky, in what should be a breakout role for her, and for director Matthew Reilly.

Because Interceptor sort of does have the potential to blow up (figuratively anyway). It’s not a surprise to me, though it was to Reilly apparently, that it hit the #1 position on streaming charts for Netflix shortly after release. It’s a relatively strong action flick, with a hint of humour, a suitably brooding villain (Bracey channelling a mix of Homelander and the Joker) and apocalyptic stakes that doesn’t outstay its welcome or ever stray too far from what brought it to the dance. Set almost entirely within what looks like a pretty basic set, I have to presume it was probably made on a shoestring as well, without that paucity of budget ever dragging it down too much. That’s because Reilly knows that the right application of hand-to-hand combat – at one point a bad guy literally drops from the roof to have a fight – mixed with sneering monologues from an unlikeable villain is about 75% of the work when it comes to a film like this. It’s hard not to like Interceptor because, in other words, it accomplishes everything that a film of this type and with this financial backing needs to accomplish.

Coming from a background where a role in The Fast And The Furious franchise is the biggest part of her filmography, Interceptor is set-up to establish Pataky as a fully-fledged action star. It certainly showcases her presence in that regard, and her skills as a fighter can’t really be questioned. Her action scenes, with a succession of one-on-ones that almost make one think of Enter The Dragon, are really impressive, and never get boring. They are better than her verbal work, where unfortunately, her accent gets in the way a little, though only a little. She MMA’s her way through the bad guys, and some good use is made of the environment to help her along.

But all of that comes up against the nature of the Interceptor plot and its supporting cast, which are equal parts humdrum and eye-roll inducing. In fairness, it attempts to be more than just a bargain-bin type deal, with Collins the victim of an orchestrated hate campaign when she was open about being harassed by a three star general: Interceptor attempts to create a dichotomy between this state of affairs and her continuing loyalty to her country and her military, something also nodded to by one of her few allies, a Hindu-American (Mayen Mehta) who has experienced, and does experience in the course of the film, plenty of racism. One of the antagonists (Aaron Glenane) is a full on good ‘ol boy stereotype, presumably only just stopped from using the N-word by fears of a too high rating, while Collins at one point tells Kessel to stop “mansplaining” to her about his evil plans. But perhaps a film which balances this stuff out with fist fights involving acid pools and belts as weapons isn’t the best avenue for an exploration of a culture war in a divided America.

Still, it’s alright. Actually, it’s better than that. As stated, Interceptor measures up perfectly well when it comes to the action genre, and makes very good use of what it has in terms of the bottle episode sets and surrounds. It’s a shame that the people behind it thought it necessary to use Chris Hemsworth and his name for all that it is worth instead of maximising the effort to make Pataky the star in her own right. At times it might attempt to be a bit too cerebral, and the “Murica” sentiment is never too far away, but this is a perfectly diverting 90 minutes and change. Recommended.

(All images are copyright of Netflix).

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