I would like to announce straight away before this review begins, that I am a serious fan of the WWE and make no apologies for my love of ‘sports entertainment’. However, I will be objective in the review and will treat it like any other film, even though it does star the charismatic Mr. Kennedy
Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia is the third in the war film series and the second one to premiere direct to DVD. I must admit, the second one has sat on my shelf for a couple of years as part of a box set with part one and I still haven’t watched it. Maybe after watching part three, I’ll find the time.
OK, a little history of wrestlers in films first, to set the scene of Kennedy’s film debut. Whilst wrestlers have cropped up in films over the years (Hulk Hogan in Rocky III, for example) it was really Roddy Piper who proved wrestlers could carry a film. John Carpenter’s They Live was one of his best and Piper shone in his role. Piper also made a series of low budget action pictures which were fun, in particular, the extremely bizarre Hell Comes To Frogtown which is so ‘out there’, it’s brilliant.
WWE first branched out into films with their co-production (with New Line Cinema) on No Holds Barred. It featured Hogan as a wrestler who crosses an evil TV producer. It was pretty dreadful but it did give Hogan a successful career in TV and film. I personally love Suburban Commando as it is generally funny and Hogan has a good chemistry with Christopher Lloyd.
Rivals WCW also made a film around the same time featuring various WCW wrestlers and David Arquette. Ready To Rumble was utter drivel and best forgotten.
Meanwhile, in WWE there was a new force in wrestling. Dwayne Johnson – aka ‘The Rock’ – was the most popular star since Hogan, so a clever deal was made. Johnson appeared in a small cameo in Universal’s Mummy sequel and then WWE with Universal made The Scorpion King based on the character from The Mummy Returns. Johnson has since gone onto immense success, and well-deserved it is too.
At the same time as Johnson’s star was rising in Hollywood, the WWE started to make more films under their WWE Films/Studios banner. First out of the starting block was a slasher picture featuring Kane called See No Evil. Since then we have had The Condemned with Stone Cold Steve Austin and Vinnie Jones. This film was incredibly violent and viciously entertaining along the lines of The Running Man.
John Cena (the biggest WWE star since The Rock) had a starring role in The Marine, an action picture in which Cena must rescue his wife from the clutches of Robert Patrick. Cena has a new film shortly at the cinema called 12 Rounds directed by Renny Harlin. Also coming soon is a Marine follow-up with Ted DiBiase (son of The Million Dollar Man) and currently one of Randy Orton’s stooges. There is also a remake of Missing In Action being developed. Now, that I would love to see, and let’s have Chuck Norris make a cameo as Braddock. Anyway, back to Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia.
Colombia as we all know is a scary place with kidnappings, murder and all sorts of goings-on due to the drug trade. As per usual, the US government are poking their noses in other countries’ affairs and send a team of crack SEALS to engage in a reconnoissance mission. Unfortunately, it goes wrong when rogue Army troops murder everyone in sight and the Americans get the blame. The SEALS are now ‘behind enemy lines’ and must escape the country to safety.
Elsewhere, shifty CIA types turn up at the US base and remove the Commander (Keith David) from duty. It all smells of a cover-up and the Commander is forced to communicate with his team using his mobile phone.
The film has been shot in Puerto Rico and has an excellent look. The majority of it appears to have been shot using handheld cameras, in particular the many action sequences and – although its no Black Hawk Down – director Tim Matheson (who turns up as the shifty CIA guy) does a grand job. The film has a grainy look and whether this is intentional or a bad print I don’t know, but it works. The soundtrack has the usual explosions and bullets flying around the speakers but at times is a bit front-heavy with the left, centre and right speakers being the ones only used. The LFE channel is used well too and adds ‘oomph’ to the proceedings. When the surrounds awake they are used well.
Now, lets move on to Mr. Kennedy in his first film: is he any good? The answer is yes. Now does he have a future as an actor after he hangs his tights up? That is a question I don’t have the answer to. His character, Carter Holt is really a supporting role as Joe Manganiello, playing Lt. Macklin, is the leader of the SEALS and the first person credited.
Kennedy makes Holt a likeable character with his wisecracks and more than holds his own in the action scenes. As an actor he’s pretty good and looks comfortable in front of the camera. Anyone who knows his character from the WWE knows the guy has serious charisma, particularly when he has a microphone.
Who knows what the future holds for him, but I would like to see him in another film, perhaps a comedy or as a cop. The supporting cast do their job but the film does belong to Joe Manganiello and Kennedy.
Fox have given us two commentaries on the disc and some short EPK style featurettes regarding various aspects of making the film. These appeared on the WWE television shows, RAW and Smackdown a couple of months back and are reasonably informative.
Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia is a good direct to DVD action film. It ticks all the boxes needed for the genre: explosions, gunfire, fighting, blood and some dry one liners. Why I like it is not because of the WWE connection but if it was twenty years ago the film would have probably starred Chuck Norris or Michael Dudikoff and Steve James. It’s possibly the greatest B action film never made by Cannon. Now that’s a recommendation in my book.
Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia will be released on 27th of April