Is Anthony Mackie the new Terminator?! Close! But no cigar.
(See what I did there? Because Schwarzenegger smokes cigars…)
Netflix’s latest offering Outside the Wire drops us into the middle of a summer action movie, perhaps to warm up the dead of winter and whatever the hell else we’re calling the world right now.
Yeah, So, Outside The Wire… What is that?
The year is 2036. So, you know, this is one of those movies we’ll look at in 2036 and be like “Uh… yeah.” Just like we did with Blade Runner and will do again with Blade Runner 2049!
Facing disciplinary action, drone pilot Lieutenant Thomas Harp (Damson Idris) is sent to the front-line of a violent civil war where the United States is acting as peacekeepers between the Russians, the Ukrainians, some resistance fighters, and an international terrorist named Victor Koval, which is just Slavic-sounding enough to be scary. Also, there are now highly skilled AI robot soldiers that the military uses, while also using human soldiers for some reason.
Harp is told to report to Captain Leo (Anthony Mackie), who soon reveals himself to be a highly advanced android on a special mission to stop Koval from securing half-century old Russian nuclear codes and launching an attack on the US mainland. And Harp is going to join him on his mission, because reasons.
Then there’s chases, action, bullets, blood, violence, explosions and a TWIST!
And that’s where I’m going to leave the exposition.
Will This Movie Help Me Temporarily Escape the Existential Dread I Live In Everyday?
Uh… sure! Listen, is this the best thing I’ve seen on Netflix? No. Did I enjoy watching it? Yeah! At least, well enough! What the hell else am I doing these days? I can’t leave the house, there’s pestilence out there! I’ve already watched everything else. Honestly, Netflix announcing that they’re releasing 6000 new movies this year is just about the best news I could’ve heard. My wife and I are on our third run-through of The Simpsons on Disney+ as it is. What are you doing on a Friday night? Going to a bar? Fuck no! Do you have a death wish?
Remember all those action movies we’d go see in the theater sometime between 1995 and 2005 that we’d immediately forget about after watching it, but it was a good time anyway? That’s what this movie is! Except you don’t have to wait three years for an “edited for TV” version to land on TNT, you can go back and watch it right away if you want! Will you want to? Probably not for another three years… but, you’ll get there eventually.
The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
Listen, I had way too much fun making fun of this movie while simultaneously genuinely enjoying a lot about it.
The visual effects are dope! I loved the AI soldiers, and the action scenes are shot beautifully. The visuals of Swedish director Mikael Håfström are clearly inspired by Neill Blomkamp’s, which makes sense considering the material.
Mackie is just a freaking delight, I love watching this guy in anything! Idris, a relative newcomer, holds his own well enough as a lead, but you have to remember, he’s acting next to the superstar talent of the Avengers’ new Captain America.
Side note: As Mackie’s character is a captain in this film, Harp keeps calling him “Cap” throughout. A nerdy detail not lost on yours truly.
As for the bad and the ugly? The first act is filled with Mackie and a couple of other characters doing that 90’s action movie “cool exposition” where they talk in a tough voice while they’re packing gear and walking around, but really it’s just a five minute explanation of who the bad guy is and what they’re going to do about it, so they can get to the shooty-shooty scenes. Also, they say “outside the wire” about 200 times.
The movie ties itself into a few knots by the third act trying to concurrently be formulaic as well as hip and new, while shoehorning in some sort of moral about perpetual war and the United States’ role in it.
Mackie continues to be entertaining, but the rest of the movie gets a little too big for it’s britches, takes itself too seriously and ultimately swallows up any kind of meaning or lesson it intended, as well as Idris third act performance.
Who’s This Movie For?
Definitely not kids! Aside from the violence, which honestly isn’t as grotesque as a lot we generally see in action movies these days, Mackie has a mouth that would make a sailor blush. In fact, Harp calls it out at one point. So, unless you’re a terrible parent, and I know you are, don’t watch it with the toddler.
What’s the Best Snack?
Well, popcorn, obviously. If you can pour some Mr. Pibb on the floor and let it dry, you’ll get the full summer action movie experience. Do yourself a favor and wear a big jacket so you can sneak some Runts and Goobers into your living room.
What Should I Know Going In?
The only thing you should really know is that at the time of this review, the movie has 57% on Rotten Tomatoes.
For My Money
That 57% percent on Rotten Tomatoes pretty well sums it up. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. It exists alongside so many pictures we know and love, floating in the abyss of Action Movie Purgatory.
Like I said, what the hell else are you doing this weekend? This is a nice enough distraction from what’s going on out there. So, order a pizza, throw a bag of Orville Redenbacher’s in the microwave and grab a seat on the couch. Anthony Mackie is the movie star we need right now, and he delivers a movie that we in the biz like to aloofly refer to as “watchable.”
Outside The Wire releases on Netflix January 15, 2021