by Daniel Baldwin
DTV action maven William Kaufman (Sinners and Saints) returns for the third time this summer with a south-of-the-border extraction/revenger combo, Shrapnel. This time around, Kaufman is playing in another insanely tropey sandbox: “Dad has a special set of skills”.
Jason Patric plays military veteran Sean Beckwith, who lives on a Texas ranch with his wife and two daughters. The oldest of which, as per a frantic voicemail overheard at the start of the film, made the mistake of sneaking across the border into Mexico with a friend to party. Anyone who watches action flicks or TV shows already knows where this is going: she’s been kidnapped.
Beckwith attempts to go through proper legal channels to retrieve his firstborn, but there’s no help to be found. When pleas for mercy on TV just piss off the cartel responsible and result in them sending a hit squad to silence the family, Sean realizes that the only hope he has is to take the fight to them. Luckily, in true Rolling Thunder fashion, he has a former soldier buddy named Vohden (Cam Gigandet) who simply needs to be told to get his gear and tagalong for an assault on the cartel boss’s (Mauricio Mendoza) compound in Juarez.
What we have here is a pretty meat and potatoes modern Mexico-set action thriller. For better or worse, this is an inherently problematic subgenre that often centers around white vengeance (i.e. Rambo: Last Blood, Sicario, etc.). If you are willing to overlook that, Shrapnel does have some things to offer.
Patric is compelling as the ever-troubled Beckwith, who has doubts from the outset that his daughter is still alive and knows that even if she is, she’ll never be the same. Nor will his wife and other kid, after the ranch assault. Nor will he, for that matter. All of this plays on his face throughout.
Gigandet carries himself well as our Tommy Lee Jones but isn’t required to do much more than that. Other performance highlights include Kesia Elwin as Sean’s wife Susan, Guillermo Ivan as the main henchman, and the aforementioned Mendoza as the big bad.
It’s not the most original low budget actioner and it’s a step down from Kaufman’s own The Channel earlier this month, but if you’re in the mood for a solid little “Dad movie”, it’ll get the job done. While no Sicario, it’s certainly better than Rambo: Last Blood.