'Land of Bad' Can't Land Its Bad Script

Directed William Eubank

Starring Russell Crowe, Liam Hemsworth, Milo Ventimiglia, Ricky Whittle, Luke Hemsworth

BY Rachel HoPublished Feb 16, 2024


When a lamb-like Liam Hemsworth lands in a Philippine jungle on his first real combat mission and fiddles around with his smart-phone-looking-drone-controlling device, we're given a real meeting of the minds exchange between Hemsworth's "Playboy" Kinney and Ricky Whittle's no-nickname Bishop. "At the end of the day, when the technology fails, war comes down to one very simple thing, and that’s man killing man,” Bishop says with the simmering intensity of a thousand suns. To up the ante, Bishop then holds up his arms showing to Playboy what he's all about: "Welcome to the land of bad." (His tattoos read, "Land of Bad.")

These are the men, along with Milo Ventimiglia's "Sugar" Sweet and Luke Hemsworth's no-nickname Abel, that make up the United States Army Delta Force soldiers tasked with retrieving an asset — a mission given no further detail, and to be honest, requires no further detail.

To round out Land of Bad, director and co-writer William Eubank incorporates another storyline set in Las Vegas, where U.S. Air Force drone pilot Captain Eddie “Reaper” Grimm provides air support for the team on the ground. Russell Crowe plays Reaper and is by far the most entertaining person in this film. He's given a bit of dramatic jeopardy with an unseen pregnant wife potentially going into labour (spoiler: she's ultimately only used as a mechanism to pepper vegan jokes throughout the film), he gives a rousing speech to conclude the film where Maximus peeks through, and he gets to wear a dazzling pink Hawaiian shirt under his uniform and when he goes grocery shopping. (The grocery shopping makes up the majority of Crowe's third-act presence, and it's probably the best part of Land of Bad.)

For much of the film, Reaper effectively fills the role of video game player, with Playboy as the character he controls. When the mission goes haywire and Playboy is left to fend for himself, Reaper keeps an eye on his player through satellites and orders air strikes on occasion. There's even a moment when a mommy/daddy-type character comes and tells Reaper to get off the computer and give someone else a turn. It's a semi-interesting premise to plunk into a movie whose action feels so outlandish and artistic that a video game is the only apt comparison (although video games tend to have a richer plot than Land of Bad).

It isn't that the film's plot is thin — it's that it's almost nonexistent: there’s the Hemsworths on a half-baked mission in the Philippines and Russell Crowe in Las Vegas. No surprise, then, that the film's screenplay is akin to shoddy ticky-tacky and void of any fun one-liners à la Sly, Arnold and Chuck. Land of Bad is in desperate need of '80s action ham, but instead we get — if I may borrow a line from the film's script — "lipstick on a pig."

The saving grace of films like Land of Bad are typically the action sequences, and there are indeed some impressive set pieces that look and sound pretty amazing. Eubank uses a Constantine-esque aesthetic that brings some artistry to sniping and torture; it's clear the filmmaker and his team had a lot of fun coming up with different ways to mount the camera, using slow motion and sound design to enhance the stunts.

Ultimately, Land of Bad gets caught in a trap attempting to straddle lyrical action with an empty storyline that desperately wants to be filled with haphazard, camera-mugging dialogue. Notably, though, what doesn't get caught up in the explosions and gun fight is the younger Hemsworth's stunning locks. No matter what physical challenges face Playboy, hair gel always seems to be on hand.

Latest Coverage