Matthew Reilly’s debut “Interceptor,” now on Netflix, might as well come with a Cannon logo in front of it. It is such an old-fashioned action film that it practically plays like a discarded Chuck Norris script, just with some modern gender politics and social issues in play (although someone like Cynthia Rothrock could have easily headlined almost exactly the same film in the ‘80s). With co-writer Stuart Beattie (“Collateral”), Reilly has crafted a movie that the characters from “The Expendables” might sit around watching, and there’s something admirable about the no-nonsense hoo-rah of it all. Some of the execution is a bit clunky—the fight choreography is flat, especially in the climax—but this is the kind of summer escapism that people often seek as the weather gets warmer across the United States. Now you can get it on Netflix too.
The story goes that Reilly purposefully wanted his first project to include a moderate budget with few cast members and one set. And so we know it won’t be long before something chaotic when he drops JJ Collins (Elsa Pataky) on a ship in the middle of the Atlantic, a vessel that houses interceptor missiles, the international safety net designed to take care of business if a nuclear weapon happens to be launched. This is a homecoming of sorts for Collins, who was forced out of service by trolls who came after her when she blew the whistle on the superior who sexually assaulted her. She’s a no-nonsense soldier, someone who we want on our side when the shit hits the fan.
Of course, on the day she gets there, the fan gets blasted when terrorists steal 16 nuclear weapons from a facility in Russia and aim them at major cities in the United States. As she’s discussing how this could have happened with a superior, she discovers that the bad guys have also considered the role of the interceptor and happen to be on the ship already. Led by an obnoxious alpha male named Kessel (Luke Bracey), the terrorists seem to have little more than complete annihilation of the human race on their mind. Can JJ keep them from the control room that would allow them to disable the interceptors and wipe out the entire United States?
Of course, she can. A movie like “Interceptor” isn’t set up as one with a lot of twists and turns, so it becomes an exercise in execution. Most of that falls on the shoulders of Pataky and Bracey, who bicker between the bullets and fight scenes that erupt every time Kessel tries to breach the control room. Pataky can be a bit too stoic, especially in the opening scenes, but she’s game for the action of the second half of the film and believable as the hero. Bracey leans into the shallow smarm of his character, even if he too could have been a tad more charismatic. Both performers seem a bit under-directed when there’s a version of “Interceptor” that leans even harder into its B-movie ’80s roots, dropping one-liners and quality kills. As goofy and full of plot holes as it is, the film almost takes itself too seriously (although a cameo from Pataky’s husband and executive producer Chris Hemsworth is kinda fun.)
It also might have been nice to lean into style a bit more with the action, most of which is shot in a way that gets the job done but little more than that. Ultimately, that’s an appraisal that works for all of “Interceptor.” It’s fine. It gets the job done. Given how many mediocre action movies have found their way to VOD and streaming services over the last couple years, just getting the job done kind of feels like a minor miracle. But Chuck Norris would have had more fun with it.