Rugged mercenaries, earnest revolutionaries, CIA skullduggery, and brutal third-world dictators are the over-familiar ingredients warmed over in this explosive stew. The original touch is pairing Peter (ROBOCOP) Weller and Robert (AIRPLANE!) Hays as the leading he-men. It doesn't work.
Leading a ragged fighting force in a would-be coup against Bosavi (Dom Magwili), dictator of fictional Tengara, Sam French (Hays) gets no further than a beach landing before his forces are cut to shreds. The dictator's defenders turn out to be led by French's ex-partner Jake Wyer (Weller), who
captures French and offers him a cushy security job in the corrupt third-world nation. When Bosavi insists on executing French, however, the two are forced to fight their way out of the country. They are quickly captured by CIA operative Sprue (Charles Martin Smith, who also directed), who offers
them each $250,000 and all the armaments they need to go back into Tengara, this time to install people's choice Akhantar (Kay Tong Lim) in the presidential palace. They accept and set about whipping Akhantar's ragtag revolutionary army into shape.
Initially resenting the mercenaries, passionate and beautiful Suleta (Ramona Rahman) begins taking a shine to Wyer when he shows an altruistic streak. Bosavi, having learned of the Akhantar-CIA conspiracy, goes over their heads and offers a deal to the US President to become an ally in return
for stifling the revolution. Sprue is forced to disclose the full plans to Bosavi, who meets Akhantar's forces with a bloody ambush. Suleta sacrifices herself in battle, inspiring Wyer and French to successfully engineer the overthrow on their own with Sprue's last-minute help.
It's hard to believe that Dennis Shryack and Michael Butler, writers of THE GAUNTLET (1977), one of Clint Eastwood's best and most original action vehicles, put their names on this dreary rehash of action movie cliches. The plot is almost a direct steal from the far-superior DOGS OF WAR (1980),
in which Christopher Walken had an attack of conscience while waging a third-world war-for-hire, but with a crudely comic gloss. Weller and Hays don't even look credible in their roles. Away from his ROBOCOP armor, Weller looks so slight that a stiff wind might knock him over, while Hays looks
like his fiercest battles are probably fought at home over the remote. Both are capable of good, flinty performances, but on the whole, they would look more at home sipping champagne in one of the many dens of iniquity to which French keeps suggesting they retire. Hints of chemistry keep peeking
through between the performers, but true buddy-buddy rapport never gets a chance to bloom in the midst of the film's ponderous, almost non-stop bloodshed. In his first feature directing assignment since 1986's TRICK OR TREAT, Smith again acquits himself honorably and competently enough, despite,
as before, being hampered by uninspired, generic material. Shryack and Butler work a few twists into the worn scenario, but the lingering impression is of wasted talent. Despite its pedigree, 50-50 is only so-so. (Violence, profanity.)
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