‘Land of Bad’ Review: More Like Land of Not So Bad

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Land of Bad (2024) © R.U. Robot Studios, Highland Film Group, Volition Media Partners, and Broken Open Pictures

Do not be fooled by the almost satirically ‘bad’ title. Director William Eubank’s latest action thriller, Land of Bad, is a surprisingly palatable and gripping entry to 2024’s cinema scene. The nearly two-hour flick follows US Air Force drone-pilot Kinney (Liam Hemsworth) as he finds himself locked in a 48-hour race against the clock, fighting for survival in uncharted enemy territory as Kinney and his team seek the rescue of a captured CIA agent.

★★★★✰

Land of Bad pulls inspiration from the action boom of the 1980s, feeling almost Predator-esque (1987), as Kinney traipses the jungle in hopes of escape from an ever-present threat of capture. Bouncing off of a fairly slow opening 20 minutes, the film puts action at the forefront of every cinematic decision, which makes for a truly thrilling watch once Kinney and the accompanying Delta Force team reach enemy lines. Although the flick could be criticised for relying too much on genre conventions, this somewhat predictable use of the survival-thriller genre makes for a welcome return to form in 2024.

For a film which is so action-heavy, Land of Bad should be praised for its insistence on paying time to its cinematography outside of core fighting sequences and gruesome gore; of which the film has plenty. The film’s colouring is gritty and saturated, pairing well with Director of Photography Agustin Claramunt’s immersive and striking cinematography. 

Land of Bad (2024) © R.U. Robot Studios, Highland Film Group, Volition Media Partners, and Broken Open Pictures

The aforementioned gore is certainly not in excess, however, it is shocking. Varied scenes of torture and brutal murder are dotted throughout Land of Bad’s visceral chaos, providing a gripping level of stakes as we root for leading man Kinney. The drone-pilot is put through his paces as he is catapulted into 48 hours of living hell. 

Liam Hemsworth is a convincing lead, managing to pull his weight through brutal hikes and nightmarish water torture against Hollywood heavyweight Russell Crowe’s strangely loveable Captain Eddie Grimm, or “Reaper”. Hemsworth is consistent, putting in a performance that is not so dissimilar from The Hunger Games’ (2012) Gale Hawthorne; that is, if Gale was firing drones for the US Army rather than District 12. It is a performance that is to be expected, however, it is well-suited to Eubank’s brand of grizzly warfare.

Although audiences are treated to a surprisingly slow start to this action-thriller, it feels as though Land of Bad pays insufficient attention to the characters other than Reaper and Kinney. Once the fighting ensues, the stakes would certainly appear higher to audiences if we had a stronger emotional connection to the Delta Force Team, comprised of Sergeant Abel (Luke Hemsworth), Bishop (Ricky Whittle), and Sugar (Milo Ventimiglia). 

Land of Bad (2024) © R.U. Robot Studios, Highland Film Group, Volition Media Partners, and Broken Open Pictures

One of Land of Bad’s greatest strengths is its use of famous-face Russell Crowe, creating one of the film’s most fully-fledged characters in Grimm. First tasked with providing remote air support during Kinney’s rescue mission, Grimm is forced to leave his post after exceeding the mandatory shift length. Perhaps it was the brutal contrast of Kinney enduring water torture backlit by Grimm wandering a convenience store in a Hawaiian shirt in search of vegan cheese for his pregnant wife that secured Crowe’s position as the standout in Land of Bad. The ultimate scene-stealer, Crowe’s performance is understatedly genius, and if anything, is the reason why you should give Land of Bad a watch.

The Verdict

Land of Bad is a peculiar film. It is solid in its 80s influence, showing Kinney as a Dutch-like hero traversing a hostile landscape in hopes of rescuing a captive, however, it is plainly unserious in its Crowe interjections, shocking viewers out of the film’s gruffness with a layer of bizarre yet effective humour. The combination of these two aspects should not work, however, it builds upon the unintentional campiness of 1980s action heroes in a way that helps Land of Bad stand out amongst a crowd of genre features. It is surprising, but unfortunately, the first 20 minutes do not lend to the film’s real strengths. If you can, it is worth sticking it out. For goodness sake, Crowe concludes the film muttering “I don’t know how to twerk.” If that has not sold you, I do not know what will.

Words by Jess Parker


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