The Movie Waffler New Release Review - RENEGADES | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - RENEGADES

renegades review
Navy SEALS stumble across hidden treasure in a Bosnian lake.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Steven Quale

Starring: J.K. Simmons, Charlie Bewley, Sullivan Stapleton, Sylvia Hoeks, Ewen Bremner, Joshua Henry

renegades poster

Hopes were not initially high for Steven Quale’s men-on-a-mission, absolute-banger Renegades. Opening in 1944 where, following actual newsreel footage of WW2 (always a cheap move, because, if you’re not careful, it can look as if you’re simply pilfering existing history to add veracity to your ersatz narrative. Cheating, in other words), we’re dropped deep into Nazi occupied Europe, where it’s business as usual. Dapper Hugo Boss Nazi-nobs misappropriate art work and gold, in between terrorising worn-down villagers and just generally being dickheads. The sober tone, matched with the Manichean characters, suggested that this ostensible WW2 drama could veer towards the worthy and redundant. However! Renegades then cuts forward to 1995, to the siege of Sarajevo, where a couple of US journos are stopped by security while on their way to interview a Serbian Big Bad (presumably an expy of Karadzic). In a moment of weird and jarring comedy the two Americans are made to strip to their jockey shorts (one has stars and stripes pants on - hehe) before being let in to the compound, where, in a bravura move of not only Uncle Sam spirit but action film-making chutzpa too, it turns out that our lads are both undercover Navy Seals who, with the help of their stealth team (blowing getaway holes in the floor and shooting any cheeky Serbs to death) have come to kidnap and arrest Karadzic. In the brilliantly macho parlance that characterises Renegades’ dialogue: what a curveball!


What follows is perhaps one of the most insanely entertaining pictures you'll see all year. Renegades is pure, uncomplicated fun. Partially scripted by Luc Besson, the film has all the hallmarks of the auteur’s berserk, kinetic cinema, which is painstakingly realised by director Quale (an acolyte of James Cameron, he’s learned a thing or two from his mentor). This is the sort of film where, upon being blockaded on a bridge from both sides, our tank driving heroes simply blast a hole in the road and successfully plummet through the sky to the river, and escape, below. Sample line from Sullivan Stapleton’s priceless commander, said through clenched teeth, as the tank falls: ‘WE’RE GOING FOR A SWIM, BOYS!’ Amazing!


The plot cheerfully stretches to a Robin Hood narrative, wherein our merry men (egged on by sexy local Sylvia Hoeks) agree to steal back gold from enemy territory. Easy enough for these lads who managed to stick it to the Serbs a few moments earlier, you’d think. But the problem is that all that (heavy) gold is at the bottom of a lake following the flooding of a village decades ago by those rotten Nazis. Thus, a symphony of excitement ensues as our lads plan and plot their eventual plunge into the lake. Here’s hoping that you’ve got some crackers left over from Christmas, because Renegades has cheese to spare. Yes, it’s daft, but the film making is superb; especially the below surface action sequences, using underwater cams left over from Quale's sub-aquatic collab with Cameron, Aliens of the Deep, technology that allows Quale to further show off the mad scene-blocking skills he demonstrated in the best Final Destination movie (5).


Perhaps there’ll be some humourless soul that doesn’t get Renegades, and makes the po-faced argument that this absurdly masculine fantasy is Trumpian cinema, wherein might is right and jingoism rules, and a bunch of bullies are our heroes. There is, after all, a sequence where, for no good reason at all, a couple of the renegades kick in the ‘fish and chip eating asses’ of a few SAS Brits (and, I’m not making this up, they do this to the tune of Here Comes the Hotstepper by Ini Kamoze - ‘extraordinary, juice like a strawberry’, indeed!). No one would want to spend time with these meat heads IRL, but for a couple of hours their bromosexual antics are a perfectly escapist ticket in this bleak, mixed up old world. And in contrast to that other recent big action film, The Last Jedi, Renegades knows that its job is to entertain and, crucially, it knows how to bring the goods, too. Renegades may be loud, silly and destructive. It may even be trash. But, to paraphrase the great Pauline Kael, if so, then it’s trash on a big tank plummeting through the sky. Boom!

Renegades is in UK cinemas and on demand January 5th.