The screenplay for Redemption Day seems like an extended act of narrative regression in three parts (four, if you count the baffling final scene). This makes sense when one takes into account the bizarre way that the opening credits segregate each screenwriter – Lemore Syvan, Sam Chouia and director Hicham Hajji – from the other two.

Perhaps the strongest portion is the opening act, which introduces us to the film’s wearied and traumatized hero and pays strong attention to building character before introducing any kind of conflict. Although it would likely be impossible to attach any stretch of the film’s running time to one writer, we might like to assume that Hajji, being given a lone “written & directed by” credit, was responsible for this part of the proceedings.

In reality, of course, it doesn’t quite matter who was technically responsible for the film’s eventual downfall, but it does raise one’s eyebrow and inspire internal theories as to what happened behind the scenes. The shortest answer is that the pieces of the movie simply don’t fit together very well. At first, we have the probing character study of that first act, which introduces us to Brad Paxton (Gary Dourdan), a soldier with the United States Marines, by way of the event that gave him a clear-cut case of posttraumatic stress.

This portion of the film is a strong one, bolstered by good, weary work from Dourdan, who wisely never plays Brad’s trauma with too much affectation – merely losing some of the fire in his eyes when his character flashes back to the day of an ambush that killed most of the men in his platoon, instead of gesticulating wildly with his face or hands. We also meet his wife Kate (Serinda Swan), who has been invited to Moroccan excavation site to oversee the discovery something incredible found in the desert there.

A major border dispute unravels when Kate’s team unwittingly crosses the Moroccan border into Algeria, prompting insurgent forces there to kill one of the team and kidnap the other two, including Kate. Alerted by Younes (Brice Bexter), a Moroccan ally watching over the excavation team, Brad arrives at the U.S. embassy in Morocco, where the ambassador (Andy Garcia) and another mysterious official (Martin Donovan) seem reluctant to take any action.

In other words, the story quickly loses any traces of genuine personality or nuance, instead moving toward overtly exploitative scenes of torture upon Kate by the Algerian soldiers, whose leader El Hadi (Samy Naceri) sets a ransom of $10 million on the heads of his two hostages. The U.S. government dawdles, trying to come up with a solution that doesn’t involve negotiation with terrorists, while Brad decides to take it on by himself.

What begins as surprisingly thoughtful quickly becomes almost completely thoughtless, and largely due to a supporting cast who seem to be in a completely different movie than Dourdan. Garcia and Donovan ham it up unnecessarily (the former even smokes a cigar with relish), Bexter plays Younes as a useless red herring (always playing things with a trace of suspicious knowing on his face), and Swan’s eventual job is just to scream and be rescued. Even more bizarrely, Ernie Hudson shows up to do almost exactly nothing as Brad’s father back home, and Robert Knepper appears as a scheming oil lobbyist in that baffling final scene, which seems to promise a sequel of some sort (though not surrounding the character you’re expecting).

Redemption Day is directed with a modicum of gritty style by Hajji, who thankfully doesn’t resort to slow-motion or shutter-speed tactics. It is, though, as forgettable as one fears it might be following a series of shifts toward anonymity.

Summary
What begins as surprisingly thoughtful quickly becomes almost completely thoughtless.
50 %
A Dull Rescue
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