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Routine action & plot clichés abound in Black Site but that’s perfectly fine
Award-winning short director Sophia Banks makes her feature-directing debut with the action flick Black Site from Vertical Entertainment. John Colee and Jinder Ho pen the film’s script, which features a familiar story. CIA Agent Abby Trent (Michelle Monaghan) manages an underground black site facility that imprisons dangerous and high-risk detainees. Days before Abby’s reassignment to a new post, Special Ops bring in a high-value target at the top of every Most Wanted list — codename: Hatchet (Jason Clarke).
Hatchet is notorious for killing his enemies gruesomely, and his capture is personal for Abby. Determined to avenge her husband’s death at the hands of Hatchet, Abby’s plan is soon thrown into chaos once Hatchet escapes and begins a bloody game of murdering the site officers -one-one-by-one. While Abby and the team hunt him down, she quickly discovers that there are moles within the ranks, compromising the mission. With time running out, Abby doubts everyone around her, begging the question, who can she trust?
When we first meet Abby, she’s burying her husband and young daughter and in the midst of receiving a new assignment. The film’s writers, John Colee and Jinder Ho give us a decent setup for the film, taking place in a single location for most of its duration. Now, this can either go one or two ways deepening on the route the director wants to take. From the onset, it’s clear that Banks wants to show she can successfully craft an action picture with the hope that this will lead to bigger and better things.
Michelle Monaghan steps away from her usual supporting work to give us a strong lead. Monaghan fans who enjoyed her work in the Netflix series Messiah and the film Sleepless may take solace in her character being a combination of the two. Monaghan can successfully navigate the action sequences and the dramatic side of things once again in this film.
Hatchet is being held captive by Abby, who is anxious for answers about her family’s death. On the other hand, Miller is a loose cannon who prefers to shoot first and ask questions afterward. Monaghan also deserves praise for navigating the ticking clock element introduced by the scriptwriters. The CIA wants to protect the facility’s secrets. It will be blown into oblivion if its communications are not restored within one hour. I wish the screenwriters had fleshed out this aspect of the writing more.
No stranger to the action genre, Jai Courtney brings his usual tough-guy persona to the role of Miller as a formidable military man turned contractor. Courtney has built his career on playing these parts, so he doesn’t bring anything new, which is fine as he knows the assignment and collects his check.
Jason Clarke provides us with know the assignment vibe in his role of Hatchet. Banks introduces Hatchet after a killing spree before his capture and then slowly reveals Hatchet and his real motivation. I will say that I enjoyed the cat and mouse game between Hatchet and Abby during the film does become overly predictable, and before the credit roll, I figured out the conclusion.
Despite the script being mundane and some questionable cinematography choices, Sohpia Banks has an excellent eye for the action genre. And I look forward to her next project.
Final Grade: C+
Black Site is available to stream now.
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