‘The Commando’ Review: A Robbery Goes Awry in Misshapen Thriller

A talky and lethargic home-invasion thriller, “The Commando” amounts to an inept crime drama stuffed with banal dialogue and irrelevant supporting characters to pad its feature-length running time. Even Mickey Rourke devotees will find the movie exhausting, since the actor disappears from the film after the first 20 minutes and doesn’t return until the anti-climactic finale, where everyone involved seems to be glad the thing is finally over with.

Shot over 11 days in New Mexico during the COVID pandemic, the film tries to make do with limited locations. This is why a third of the movie is comprised of people spouting nonsense while sitting inside cars.

Rourke plays Johnny, a freshly sprung convict who reunites with his old crew to retake the $3 million of stolen money he hid inside a house before he was arrested. Michael Jai White is James, a DEA agent suffering from PTSD after inadvertently killing three hostages during a gun fight with drug traffickers. James happens to live with his wife and two daughters in the house where Johnny stashed his loot. Many confrontations ensue, but none of them involve the two leads until the film’s closing minutes. The wait is long and arduous.

Director Asif Akbar (“Smoke Filled Lungs,” “Ace and the Christmas Miracle”) was obviously working under a tight deadline: The extras playing no-name baddies in the shootout that opens the film wince while waiting for the squibs taped to their bodies to go off. But that doesn’t excuse the utter lack of visual style or even basic framing that plagues the entire picture, which is filled with scenes where someone insisted the first take was good enough to print. Akbar fares worse with the plentiful dialogue scenes, in which the actors often perform at mismatched pitches, giving some sequences the feel of a comedic skit. This is not intentional.

The basic premise of the screenplay, credited to Koji Steven Sakai, pits a broken law enforcement agent against a criminal getting back into risky business. But the bulk of the movie centers on a group of teenagers having a party while their house is stalked by buffoonish criminals waiting for the right time to swoop in. The ensuing chaos has a high body count but a low suspense ratio. You also wonder when the stars of the film are going to re-enter the fray.

In his few scenes, Rourke is engaged and lively as a crusty criminal who hasn’t lost his edge. The movie needed more of him. White doesn’t fare as well as the remorseful DEA agent, because the character’s paralyzing guilt over the accidental shooting seems misplaced and overblown. Yes, the incident would be traumatic for any law officer, but as presented, this baggage feels like a writer’s crutch. Like the rest of “The Commando,” there’s nothing true or resonant about it.

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