Each week, Netflix Watch Instantly adds hundreds of new titles. Four or five are movies you want to watch, some are bad TV shows or camp classics, and most make no sense at all. Those in the latter category are puzzling: not bad enough to be good and certainly not good enough to be interesting. In this column, comedian Max Silvestri will review a new film on Netflix Watch Instantly and ask, what is this?
What It’s About: A creature suspiciously similar to the Predator is hunting soldiers in either South America or Louisiana.
Who It’s For: Somebody working on a YouTube montage of railing kills, as this movie has at least one of them. (A railing kill is when a disposable bad guy gets shot and goes flying over a railing. Only the BEST movies have them.)
My love for both Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and the original Predator is a matter of public record. (I don’t actually know what “public record” means, but I mean I have talked about these two things in public. Maybe someone was recording. Probably.) I am not a Trek-o so I didn’t watch Andromeda, but consider me a fan of Kevin Sorbo. He possesses all the qualities I like in an action star: deep voice, soft hair, and orange arms. Speaking of: I consider Predator, along with Road House, one of the few perfect 80’s action films. The film gave America two state governors and gave my high school its game day rallying cry: “if it bleeds, we can kill it.” This declaration of competitive aggression really spoke to me, as I managed the water and practice balls for the JV soccer team. Sadly for me, Flesh Wounds, a low-budget Predator rip-off staring Kevin Sorbo, is less than the sum of its parts. (Though if you count the parts that are guys in sweaty tank tops asking each other for cigarettes and talking about vagina, then those parts definitely add up to quite a bit.)
Somewhere in South America, there is evil loose. (When I say South America, I mean whatever part of Louisiana was offering a generous tax credit. Nobody got on a plane to make this movie.) The movie opens with two mercenaries on a fan boat guarding “scientists” while they take readings from the river. We know they’re scientists because they are wearing lab coats and look like nerds. Why are they wearing lab coats outside? It seems unpractical. Before they can finish their science-work, they’re attacked by a cloud of black smoke rising from out the water. If this sounds like the Smoke Monster from Lost, it is, in theory. But while the Smoke Monster on that show resembled moving smoke, this creature moves like your grandpa is trying to figure out how to move the mouse around the computer screen -- and also the cursor looks like the dust cloud that always followed Pig-Pen. You want to take the mouse away and say, “It’ll be quicker if I do it, Poppop.” The smoke kills everybody, somehow. Most of the death in this movie happens off screen, and it’s less about preserving our delicate sensibilities and more about preserving the movie’s delicate special effects budgets.
A bigwig in Washington is alerted to the mysterious smoke creature deaths. He is staring out the window of his office and sipping coffee when his secretary walks in with a top-secret memo. He knows something’s gone wrong, and he needs to make a phone call. “Take this and give me a minute,” he says, handing her his cup of coffee. The phone call he has to make is so important even his COFFEE can’t hear what he’s got to say. He orders vague things eliminated. The secretary comes back in. Gravely, the bigwig says, “This is going to take more time than I thought. Push my lunch back to 2.” This is indeed serious. I appreciate that the movie sets up the stakes early: we are dealing with a threat to this country so severe it may yet turn this entire nation’s lunches into LATE lunches.
Kevin Sorbo and his team of his ex-military mercenaries are called in to deal with some kind of threat. Sorbo doesn’t get the whole story, and neither do we. Apparently they are in South America, on a South American military base, and an Army officer tells him there is an American research facility nearby, but also a terrorist cell. That sounds like a sticky situation. Is that common in South America? Is it full of US army bases, secret US government research facilities, AND terrorists? I did not know that but I guess I’ll believe this movie. Kevin Sorbo’s role in all of this is also unclear. We know he used to be in “wars” but he doesn’t salute anybody and dresses in unbuttoned collared shirts and loose cargo pants, like a Southwestern divorcee going on a second date. I think he takes the mission for the money. The officer says it’s all “Special ops. Black ops. Straight from Congress, baby.” These ops are so special they’re black, as they say.
Sorbo and his team of mercenaries head out into the swamps of New Orleans South America to find this terrorist threat. (They don’t even know about the smoke monster yet.) The mercenaries are very nondescript. They all wear tank tops, use tobacco, and are in good shape but not great shape. They don’t look battle-tried. They look like they all go to the gym three times a week but also get a few appetizers for the table at dinner. When they find out they’re saddled with a female government liaison, they get very upset. One especially misogynistic merc says, “I haven’t worked with a dame since I was a grunt.” Man, screenwriter Dan Garcia’s ear for dialog is uncanny. I can only assume he was in special ops himself? Or spent at least 5 years living among them to learn their speech patterns? Upon discovering that the terrorists they’re hunting are using American weapons and “training manuals”, the same soldier says, “This is bullshit, sir. Sir. Is this bullshit?” I think that’s a poem? It’s a pretty good one.
There is a lot of shooting and killing of nondescript South American terrorists along the river. We never learn anything about the terrorists’ ideology. Are they fundamentalists? Is their enemy capitalism, or America, or what? I wish this movie had spent more time on that. One thing we do know about the terrorists is that they are incredibly easy to sneak up on. More than once, a whole platoon of American soldiers walks up to 10 feet behind a guard. The front guy does that closed fist “stop and be quiet” military signal and then shoots the guy in the back. What a bad guard.
Terrorists and Americans alike are being slowly picked off by the creature we hear called the Hunter. Now the hunted has become the Hunter! (I don’t actually think this thing was ever hunted. The Hunter remains the Hunter.) We occasionally see him wandering around with that same kind of blurred invisibility they use in the Predator movies. He also has Predator-esque infrared vision, but he only uses it in daytime and also has normal vision, so that doesn’t all check out.
Despite all the gruesome deaths, the mercenaries don’t have a problem continuing to talk about women like they are naked frat pledges trying to prove how straight they are. One scene starts with a soldier saying, “That bar I was telling you about back home? Pussy everywhere. We gotta go there.” We DO gotta go there. What a good story. So you’re saying you go to a bar that has women at it? Man, let’s charter a plane TONIGHT. Another guy says, while smoking, “I gotta quit smoking these things. I used to be able to punish he booty for 2 hours straight. Now I can barely go 20 minutes.” Normally, I’d encourage this guy to stop smoking, but honestly it sounds like these booties he punishes appreciate the break. Keep smoking.
We learn via flashback that the Hunter is the result of a government experiment gone wrong. He was meant to be some kind of monstrous, half-robotic Solo-esque super-solder, and they robbed him of a brain chemical he needs in order to keep him in line. But he beat the military at their own game and now murders dudes and sucks their brains out to replenish that necessary chemical. The flashback also reveals the bigwig at the beginning of the movie is the officer in charge of the evil program. We see him in all-white lab telling the test subject about what he’s volunteering for. For some reason, the bigwig is wearing a camouflage poncho. Is it about to rain? Why are you wearing a poncho indoors? There is a lot of random, mismatched camouflage in this movie. I think the soldiers wear about ten different colors of it, such that they stand out even more. I get the distinct impression that this movie happened because someone got a big lot of camo in an estate sale and had to figure out how to use it. And use it they did.
With the terrorist threat ignored, the soldiers are now being hunted. One asks Kevin Sorbo what they do now. “Now we do what we do best. Wait.” Is waiting what special ops do best? I have never heard that before. Well, they wait, and everybody but Kevin Sorbo and the girl gets killed. Sorbo faces off with the Hunter, whose main power seems to be walking slowly and not minding bullets. He’s got a giant blade attached to his robot arm, but every time Sorbo gets close, the Hunter just throws him a few feet on to the grass. Stab him, Hunter! But Sorbo hid some bombs in the Hunter’s home-shack, and he manages to blow the Hunter up. That was pretty easy! Easier than watching this movie, a sadly un-legendary journey.
When You Should Watch It: If you don’t own a clock but are baking something that takes exactly 81 minutes.
Max Silvestri is a comedian and a writer based in New York. Follow him on Twitter, where he mostly talks about food.