You could be forgiven for thinking that action is an easy genre to get right. As long as you put your back into choreographing the action sequences, have a good-looking male lead that can pull off being the tough guy and a beautiful dame to hang on his arm, it sounds as if you are already halfway there. More often than not, viewers are going to watch a spectacle anyway, they want to be entertained and amazed by the special effects and the beautiful heroes/heroines. Yet a film cannot rely on this alone. A badly plotted story will show, no matter how good the acting or the special effects are. And this, in a nutshell, is the downfall of AWOL-72.
Conrad Miller (Luke Goss) is a simple man. All he wants is to make a comfortable life for himself and his partner Laura (Heather Roop) so they can build a future together. However, since Conrad Miller is a US Marine in possession of very important government information, achieving this may be more complicated than one might think. But Conrad is determined. He goes AWOL and with the agencies of two different governments and a dangerous assassin on his tail he attempts the ultimate last job that will hopefully lead him to true independence.
There is no doubt that the film is technically strong. Slick camerawork and good editing make for sleek action sequences that will, no doubt, keep the viewer on the edge of their seats. And while action films have always had a reputation for being dominated by white males, this is not the case with AWOL-72, to its great credit. Laura, Conrad’s partner, is both intelligent and a key player within the story. Detective Adams, Conrad’s main antagonist, is played by Wu Tang Clan founder RZA. Myron, a dangerous assassin also set on Conrad’s tail, is played by African-American actor Bokeem Woodbine. Thus, the characters with different ethnic backgrounds are not simply token characters, they have distinct personalities and are active agents in the story.
The main let-down is the storyline. Yes, the action sequences are very watchable but, more often than not, they feel as if they have been inserted into the story just for the sake of it. One example is a side-plot where Conrad gets embroiled with a gang and must overpower the gang leaders, save innocent civilians and uncover local police corruption in a small town. The problem with this is the entire episode has nothing to do with the main story. It seems to serve no purpose other than to set Conrad up as a really good guy and give the audience something fun to watch. The fact that the whole narrative detour seems to be fuelled by complete coincidences only adds to the injury.
Had AWOL-72 favoured a streamlined plot instead of a plethora of action sequences to move the plot forward, it could have been a fine example of the action genre. As it stands, sadly, its unclear plot lets it down badly and prevents it from fulfilling its potential.
You can see AWOL-72 on DVD and VOD from the 21st of September.