It’s time to plunge back into straight-to-DVD action thriller purgatory with Marauders, which is being theatrically-released in places like Russia, Kuwait and here in Singapore. Branches of Hubert National Bank, headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, have been hit by brutal bank robberies executed with utmost precision. FBI agent Jonathan Montgomery (Meloni) is put in charge of investigating the robberies. Montgomery is at loggerheads with local Cincinnati cop Mims (Schaech), whom Montgomery believes is trying to sabotage the investigation. Stockwell (Bautista) and Wells (Grenier), agents working under Montgomery’s command, find clues pointing to T.J. Jackson (Battle), a rogue Special Forces soldier. Only problem is, he’s dead. As Montgomery digs further and the bank robbers strike again, he is convinced that the bank’s CEO, Jeffrey Hubert (Willis), knows more than he is letting on.
Marauders has mediocrity coming out of its ears. At first, it seems like the film might have a certain stylishness, and the opening bank robbery is staged fairly well. However, any attention the sequence might have earned quickly falls away as the leaden and airless plot unfolds. Being convoluted is not the same thing as being compelling, and that’s the crucial mistake that Marauders makes. There is an attempt at creating a layered mystery, but director Steven C. Miller’s lack of finesse results in there being no tension or excitement whatsoever. The writing is also to blame: Michael Cody and Chris Sivertson’s screenplay heaves with clunky tough guy dialogue that’s all machismo and no impact. There is potential in the germ of the idea that it’s the bankers and not the robbers who are the ‘real’ bad guys, but even then, that’s been done before and with exponentially more pizazz.
This is a film in which one character’s primary motivation is the death of his wife, and another’s is his wife’s terminal illness, both played painfully straight. Christopher Meloni of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit fame has ably played tough guys who are also charming, but Montgomery is a wholly unlikeable character who’s difficult to sympathise with even after we learn his tragic back-story. Willis seems to have settled comfortably into expending no effort at all in disposable action thrillers. Here, he’s playing the head of a bank instead of the typical cop or secret agent, meaning he isn’t involved in any action scenes and thus gets to give an even lazier performance than usual.
Marauders would like to think it’s gritty and hard-edged, but Grenier detracts from that significantly. Even at age 40, he’s still too much of a pretty boy to be convincing as a combat-veteran-turned-FBI-agent. Grenier pretty much is his character Vincent Chase on Entourage, albeit less successful. Despite being in Guardians of the Galaxy and Spectre, Bautista is still a mainstay of direct-to-DVD films. For the bulk of Marauders, the physically-imposing actor is seated in a briefing room or at a desk, and is puzzlingly excluded from the bulk of the action.
Ironically enough, it’s likely that Marauders would have been more watchable if it were merely a run-of-the-mill crime thriller and didn’t take stabs at social commentary. The larger conspiracy is meant to raise questions about government corruption, institutionalised banking and the way the American military conducts its operations overseas, but because Marauders lacks the wit to pull all that off, it ends up being pretentious and boring.
Summary: While Marauders wants to be more than your average direct-to-DVD crime movie, it’s woefully lacking in thrills and its mystery is too muddled to be engaging.
RATING: 2 out of 5 Stars