One does not have to perform a lot of mental gymnastics to figure out which classic single-location thrillers are receiving the homage treatment in Assault on VA-33. The most obvious one is right there in the title, but one may simply watch this movie and grow nostalgic for what made 1976’s Assault on Precinct 13 the unnerving masterpiece it was (and what the pretty effective 2005 remake was able to accomplish, too). That film was about a police precinct being overrun by domestic terrorists, and here we have the same concept, except that the action is mostly set in and around a veterans’ hospital.

The other thriller being referenced here is, of course, Die Hard, in that a beefy, capable guy who happens to be present for the incident picks off the villain’s henchmen one by one. On second thought, watching or revisiting any one of those three movies is a more productive use of time than this one, which was written by Scott Thomas Reynolds and directed by Christopher Ray. This film offers only pedestrian staging, some half-hearted fight choreography and a hilariously upbeat and patriotic music score whose composer must have been watching a different movie entirely.

Jason Hall (Sean Patrick Flanery, looking remarkably like 1990s-era Mickey Rourke but containing a quarter of the charisma) is himself a veteran who has arrived at this particular hospital with his daughter in tow to each lunch with his wife Jennifer (Gina Holden). She is a counselor at the hospital, where Jason also receives treatment for his posttraumatic stress disorder, but at the last moment, one of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States Military, General Welch (Gerald Webb), arrives for a session meant to remain top-secret. Word clearly got out, though, since Rabikov (Weston Cage Coppola, adopting a vaguely Eastern European or Russian dialect that renders much of his dialogue incoherent) and his henchmen arrive, under the disguise of elevator repairmen, to kill Welch.

What follows is precisely what everyone who read the previous paragraph is expecting of a movie like this: Jason, who had nearly left the facility before noticing something strange about the repairmen, tries to warn the local police, whose chief (Michael Jai White) is slow to respond. Why send a car, he seems to ask of thin air, if this is a traumatized soldier at a veterans’ hospital probably hallucinating everything? Unexpectedly, Reynolds is making a fairly valid point about the apparent inability of police to handle this kind of situation. One must give credit where it is due, although it ends there.

We get the requisite scenes of hand-to-hand combat, which gives Flanery (a learned veteran of Brazilian jiu-jitsu) a reason to fight the various henchmen, almost all of whom are faceless and interchangeable drones. The exceptions to that rule are Vee (Brittany Underwood), the lone woman of Rabikov’s team, and Mark Dacascos as Jackson, the group’s sniper. The latter bit of casting ends up only providing a good reminder that, if a filmmaker is going to cast an actor of his physicality and skill set, giving Dacascos more than two minutes of combat is probably the way to go.

Rabikov’s ultimate goal is to locate his brother, which means that, whatever the outcome of that search, this movie is barreling straight toward an anticlimax. On that score, Assault on VA-33 certainly delivers. This is a drab, predictable, utterly expendable thriller.

This is a drab, predictable, utterly expendable thriller.
30 %
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