The latest variation of the Die Hard trope arrives in Saban Films, Assault on VA-33, from director Christopher Ray. Scott Thomas Reynolds pens the film’s screenplay, which focuses on decorated veteran and PTSD sufferer Jason Hill (Sean Patrick Flanery). During an ordinary day, Jason decides to meet his wife, Jennifer (Gina Holden), for lunch at the Veteran’s Affairs hospital where she works.
After Jennifer receives a call for an emergency consultation with the head of the US Military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, the hospital is taken hostage by heavily armed terrorists led by Adrian (Weston Cage Coppola). When the local Chief of Police (Michael Jai White) writes off Jason’s suspicions, Jason becomes the last defense line. Now Jason must not battle the terrorists and his PTSD-induced demons to save his wife, the General, the hospital’s staff, and patients.
Earlier this year, Sean Patrick Flakey impressed me with his directorial debut, the martial arts redemption tale, Born a Champion. Naturally, I looked forward to seeing what Flanery would bring to the table in his second action flick of the year. Screenwriter Scott Thomas Reynolds takes the basic template of the lone, everyman hero. The latter must overcome an overwhelming opposing force in a relatively small and confined location.
All of the plot elements are here from the unassuming cops and the villain’s actual motive. Director Christopher Ray, whose filmography includes the cinematic treasures, Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus & Dick Dickster keeps the running time under 90 mins. Therefore, action fans do not have to wait long for the mayhem. However, one of the primary problems is Ray’s direction in the film does not fully utilize the cast.
Case in point martial arts legend Michael Jai White and wrestler Rob Van Dam never engage in fisticuffs. In the past, Jai White has never come off as pompous as he does the film. Quite honestly, I think this is the first time I have not liked a character that the actor has portrayed.
Regarding Rob Van Dam, perhaps the script wanted to use the characterization of Rob Van Dam’s size to keep him in the van, but the joke does not land. There’s also a mistake made by Rachel True’s character of Sasha, that as a veteran that made me roll my eyes. While I understood the severity of the situation, I can only suspend my disbelief so much. Thankfully, we have Mark Dacascos on hand as mercenary Jackson to add some much-needed life into the supporting cast.
Weston Cage Coppola (son of Nicolas Cage) appears to adapt his father’s “Nouveau Shamanic “, but to no avail. His acting comes off as forced, and he does not hold on his own against our hero. In hindsight, I would have much instead had Mark Dacascos as the lead big bad since he brings more malice to a bad guy’s role.
Speaking of our hero, Sean Patrick Flanery does what he can with the role. I will give the actor credit for never attempting to go full John McClane by cracking jokes or showing aversion to saving the day. Instead, as Jason Hill, Sean Patrick Flanery displays that he has the chops to be an action star; he needs better material to work with.
Shot on a shoestring budget, Assault on VA-33 may find an audience with some action fans or those who enjoy low-budget movies. However, everyone else should give Die Hard another viewing.
Final Grade: D +
ASSAULT ON VA-33, opens in select theaters April 2, and arrives On Demand and Digital April 6