Directed by: Nick Gillespie
Run time: 88 minutes
The Lowdown: Claustrophobic horror can be extremely effective.
Just ask anyone who endured 2010’s Buried (aka, Ryan Reynolds in a coffin for 95 minutes), or even David Twohy’s superb 2002 haunted submarine thriller Below.
So the central premise of writer-director Nick Gillespie’s Tank 432 – essentially, a group of soldiers seek refuge in an abandoned tank while being pursued by an unknown, and potentially supernatural, enemy – is a solid start for a potentially nerve-wracking viewing experience.
And Gillespie, making his feature film debut, has a decent pedigree, having worked on several films for writer-director Ben Wheatley, which likely explains why Wheatley served as executive producer for Tank 432.
What doesn’t make sense is Tank 432 – not a lick. In fact, it’s so infuriating at points that you almost want to just hit Eject and be done with it.
But, dear readers, BVB endured, if only to be able to tell you to avoid this at all costs.
Tank 432 starts promisingly enough with the squad of soldiers on the run. They reach what appears to be an abandoned outpost and send a scout to go check. That solider gets wounded, and ultimately left behind, which is about when you begin to realize there’s a lot going on that Gillespie has no intention of divulging.
For one, the enemy, or enemies, pursuing the soldiers look like spectral samurai (I think). You don’t ever get a good look at them. For another, the squad adheres to traditional military protocol, but the leader seems increasingly unmoored.
Once the group makes it to the titular tank, climbs inside and discovers dead bodies, everyone is on high alert. So they promptly lock themselves in the tank with no way to get back out. That’s when the whole crew just loses their shit. There’s a point where the lone female solider, who also serves as a field medic, finds a stack of medical folders, which include dossiers on each of the soldiers.
This is actually an interesting moment, one of the few, but it goes nowhere. My suspicion is that the soldiers were all drugged and made to believe they were fighting an enemy that was actually only in their minds. Some scattered bits of dialogue seem to shore this theory up. There’s also some random talk that might suggest they’re all part of a government experiment and possibly have been regenerated after past failed exercises.
Sadly, Gillespie only hints and teases at thematic elements that might have made Tank 432 a much better thriller, and worthy of recommendation.
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – No.
Nudity – No.
Gore – Minimal.
Drug use – Yes.
Bad Guys/Killers – Your guess is as good as mine.
Buy/Rent – Neither.
Office Christmas Party (Paramount, 105 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): Ah, the raunchy comedy.
It’s a small but decidedly edgy subgenre that typically includes more misfires than actual bulls-eye strikes. But, oh boy, every now and then, a truly deviant and funny surprise can be found.
Office Christmas Party is not on par with the recent spate of superior raunch-comedies by, say, Seth Rogen. This is nowhere near as good as Neighbors or Sausage Party, but directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck don’t seem worried about offending as many people as possible, and that’s a good thing.
They also have a great, game cast, including T.J. Miller, Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, Courtney B. Vance, Jennifer Anniston and Kate McKinnon.
Gordon and Speck previously helmed Blades of Glory and The Switch, which also featured Bateman and Anniston, and they have an easy-going style that allows jokes to unfurl deliberately for maximum impact.
I’m not a huge Miller fan – he can be incredibly annoying at times – but he does a good job here playing the lovable trust-fund slacker who just wants to party and help his workers keep their jobs. Anniston makes for a great, bitchy foil as Miller’s uptight sister who is more concerned about profits than people.
The real standout here is McKinnon, who just keeps stealing every movie in which she appears. A chameleon of an actress, who seems willing to do anything to nail the joke, she shines as the awkward and increasingly unhinged director of human resources at Miller’s company.
This is a lot funnier than the commercials made it seem, and the slew of bad reviews for its theatrical release don’t seem justified.
Now on Video-on-Demand:
The Assignment (Saban Films/Lionsgate, 95 minutes, R, VOD): In the 1980s, there wasn’t another director working who could match Walter Hill when it came to cranking out gritty, uber-violent and slyly irreverent action movies.
Not only did he produce most of the Alien franchise, but he personally gave us The Warriors, 48 Hrs., Streets of Fire, Red Heat, Johnny Handsome and Trespass.
Hill’s movies had rich characters that you cared about and wanted to survive the violent shootouts and car chases that populated his films. But it was the quiet moments that best defined his work. He had a way of twisting genre conventions and subverting expectations that felt fresh and innovative.
Alas, that fiery maverick spirit seems gone. Returning with just his second feature film in 15 years, The Assignment is not the cause for celebration that long-time Hill fans likely hoped.
It’s a hot mess, much like its central character.
Prior to its release, The Assignment – – which was filmed under the more interesting title Tomboy, A Revenger’s Tale, and initially released to festivals as (Re) Assignment – garnered backlash from the LGBT community because it focuses on a transgendered assassin played by Michelle Rodriguez.
Having now watched the movie, BVB can report that the most offensive thing about The Assignment is not its depiction of a gay antihero, but rather the 95 minutes of precious life wasted.
There is not a single second when you remotely believe Rodriguez is really a stone-cold killer named Frank Kitchens.
That doesn’t stop Hill from trying, and believe us, someone should have stopped him before he made the insane decision to go full-frontal, giving Rodriguez a prosthetically-enhanced Dirk Diggler reveal in the shower.
It’s one of three full-frontal scenes in the film.
The next comes after Rodriguez (as male Kitchens) has been double-crossed and wakes up to discover he is now a she who looks remarkably like him, minus the patchy fake beard.
Hill tries to sell the horror of someone discovering they’re the victim of an unwanted sex change by having Rodriguez scream bloody murder – only after she discovers that her penis has left her body.
The third full-frontal reveal is the worst, despite being unintentionally hysterical and cringe-worthy: Having drowned her sorrows in a bottle of booze, Rodriguez (as female Kitchens) stands in front of a large mirror and, ahem, explores her new body for a good five to 10 seconds of creepy awkward screen time.
As bad as this sounds, and trust us, it’s really bad, we haven’t even started talking about Sigourney Weaver.
Her character, Dr. Rachel Kay, hates Frank Kitchens because he killed her brother. So she devises a plan to lure Kitchens into a trap and transform him into a hot girl because, apparently, that’s high on the list of ultimate evil revenge schemes.
Dr. Kay spends the bulk of The Assignment sitting an interrogation room in a straightjacket at a hospital for the criminally insane, recounting her nefarious plan to Tony Shalhoub. Imagine if Hannibal Lecter had bored Clarice Starling to tears by focusing entirely on his recipe for fava beans instead of talking about eating people.
Poor Sigourney gets stuck with some truly terrible dialogue, such as when she explains her decision for giving Rodriguez a fresh pair of boobs by saying, “I have liberated you from the macho prison you’ve been living in.”
But that’s nothing compared to the dialogue that Rodriguez suffers through. “Tape up my swollen tits,” she growls, complaining about having to get ready as a girl to go kill a bunch of people. “Sit down to take a piss.”
Shame on you, Walter Hill. You used to be so much better than this.