Saban Films is a clearing house for crap. I have yet to see anything bearing the Haim Saban imprimatur that wasn’t total garbage. From distributing low-rent Japanese television imports Dragon Quest and Power Rangers decades ago, to spreading Dolph Lundgren films the world over, Saban continues its quest to bore viewers to death. Such is the case with Armed Response, whose production companies include WWE Studios. Sometimes, viewers can know what they’re in for before all the pretentious opening logos have flashed past.
From 2017, Armed Response follows a CIA black ops team as they infiltrate a US interrogation black site that has mysteriously gone silent. The boys at Langley normally have access to cameras, computers, and biometric data from the site, but everything has stopped. The CIA team sent to investigate is led by Isaac (Wesley Snipes, who also produced), and includes Riley (Anne Heche), Brett (pro wrestler Seth Rollins), a couple of other people who make for fine cannon fodder, and Gabrielle (Dave Annable), who, besides being a kickass field operative, also designed the AI that oversees the site. Okay.
The black site is a newly-finished prison that ran out of funding, and that the CIA then took over. A prison running out of money? In this country? There’s the first instance where a viewer’s suspension of disbelief will be strained. The prison is a real location, and does look unused. After many, many minutes of searching on the internet, I found that the prison was played by the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office Detention Center in Louisiana, just south of New Orleans. It’s a new building which opened in 2015, and one can assume that director John Stockwell and company filmed shortly before then.
The location is one thing that this film does right, although it did result in a glorious moment of shitty filmmaking.
There’s a point in the film, after Isaac and his team infiltrate the site, that someone, or something, locks them in. This pivotal scene takes place in an enclosed motor pool at the back of the prison, and is totally undercut by the fact that the motor pool is open to the sky, and the walls look to be about fifteen feet high. I refuse to believe that a highly-trained black ops team would look at a fifteen-foot high wall and think, “Shit! We’re trapped. No way we’re getting over that!” There were even vans parked back there they could climb on top of, and support beams that sloped upwards from the floor. It’s picking nits, sure, but come on.
Back inside the prison proper, viewers are treated to a film on the same level of sophistication as a 1990s Sci-Fi Channel joint. It’s a small location whose hallways and rooms are featured over and over again, ad nauseum, and cast members with guns wander through it and shoot at stuff. The location may have been something the filmmakers did right, but they filmed it like a dimly-lit plywood set that only cost a buck and a half to build.
It’s all very disappointing, as the cast was game. No one was going to win any awards, but, with the exception of Rollins, who is not a professional actor by trade, they did fine with the material. Snipes was up for anything Stockwell required of him, and he was a pro. He delivered some very clichéd lines with aplomb, and only looked silly when he was in a silly scene.
What dooms this movie is a dearth of action. There are a few fights here and there and some gunplay, but not enough to float a flick with such inanity. So much more has been made with less. For the crime of not living up to its limited potential, Armed Response is cast into the nether regions of the Watchability Index, barely topping Dead Trigger at #236. Stay Away. If you do insist on watching it, keep an eye out for a Gene Simmons cameo.