Matthew Reilly’s debut film The Interceptor, now on Netflix, might as well have a Cannon logo in front of it. It’s an outdated action movie that’s literally like a throwaway Chuck Norris playbook, just with some modern gender politics and social issues (though someone like Cynthia Rothrock could almost make it in the ’80s directed the same film). It’s all admirable that Reilly, along with co-writer Stuart Beattie (“Collateral”), created a film that The Expendables characters could sit and watch. Some of the execution is a bit clunky — the combat choreography is bland, especially in the climax — but it’s a summer escape that people often seek when the weather warms up in America. Now you can get it on Netflix too.
The story goes that Riley deliberately wanted his first project to be modestly budgeted, with very few actors and one set. So we know that when he throws JJ Collins (Elsa Pataky) onto a boat in the mid-Atlantic with interceptor missiles on board, the international safety net is doomed for the accidental launch of a nuke time business. For Collins, it was a return in a sense, when she berated her bosses for sexually abusing her, and she was retired by the trolls who hunted her down. She’s a no-nonsense soldier, and when shit hits the fans, we want someone on our side.
Of course, the day she got there, the fan was blown up when terrorists stole 16 nuclear weapons from a Russian facility and aimed them at major American cities. When she talked to her superiors about how this happened, she found that the bad guys had also considered the role of the interceptor and happened to be already on board. Led by an obnoxious alpha male named Kessel (Luke Bracey), the terrorists only seem to set out to wipe out humanity once and for all. Can JJ keep them out of the control room so they can disable the interceptor and wipe out the whole of America?
Of course she can. A movie like The Interceptor doesn’t have too many twists in design, so it becomes an exercise in execution. Much of it fell on the shoulders of Pataky and Bracey, who debated between the bullets and fight scenes that erupted every time Kessel tried to break through the control room. Pataky may be a little too stoic, especially in the opening scenes, but she’s ready for the action in the second half of the movie and is a believable heroine. Bracey leans toward the shallow wit of his character, even though he could have been more charismatic. If there’s a version that gets closer to its ’80s B-movie roots, ditching the one-liners and mass-killing, both actors seem to need some guidance. As silly and full of plot holes as it is, the film takes itself almost too seriously (though Pataky’s husband and executive producer Chris Hemsworth’s cameo is hilarious.)
A more action-oriented style might also be fine, most of which is shot to get the job done, but that’s about it. Ultimately, this is the evaluation “interceptor” that applies to everyone. very good. It gets the job done. Considering how many mediocre action movies have made their way to video-on-demand and streaming services over the past few years, it feels like a small miracle to get the job done. But Chuck Norris would have liked it better.