Running is the only option.
“I just want a piece of normal."
Conrad Miller (Luke Goss, Death Race 2, 3, Blood Out, Night Crew, War Pigs) is a soldier with a dark past; one that he seems to want to escape. He has the wheels in motion to set his girlfriend Laura (Heather Loop) and himself up for a new life in the Maldives. However, going AWOL is not as easy as just not showing up to work. The cops are after him, primarily Detective Adams (RZA, The Man with the Iron Fists, The Protector 2), multiple hitmen are after him and the Russian consulate are after him - and a mysterious “asset" they think he is holding. Conrad’s plans to flee to the sunny island are not going to be as straight forward as he had hoped.
I didn’t mind this. I’m quite a fan of Luke Goss’ style and gave positive reviews to his films Death Race 2, Death Race 3 and Blood Out. When given the right films, he approaches a DTV equivalent of Jason Statham - that’s praise, by the way. He punches believably, kicks believably and holds a gun believably. As the AWOL marine he is pretty ordinary, but he earns extra points for being the Good Guy that puts things right as his journey unfolds. Saving the girl from the violent boyfriend, rescuing hostage people-smuggling victims - these actions and others like them add a modicum of soul to the character of Conrad Miller.
There’s a few good action scenes to watch for in AWOL-72, though they are few and far between though satisfyingly violent. Miller viciously beats up a redneck at the petrol station, and then again later in the film gives him a second serving. There’s a few run-ins with the mysterious Myron (our main hitman played by Bokeem Woodbine) that have that modern shoot-em-up feel found in a lot of post-2000 DTV action films, and him and Goss get a short but shark kickfighting session in. I also quite enjoyed and was surprised by the skills shown by hitwoman Monica (Mary Christina Brown, Shadowman, Blood and Bone) - that girl has some Rothrock moves on her.
“Lies are what we are."
This is Luke’s movie, thankfully. I bought into his plight and with every damsel he saved along the way, I rooted for him more. You don’t know his full past and you don’t know all the truths behind what he is doing, but he comes across as a good man trying to leave a horrible life behind him, using some of his skills from that same horrible past to obtain better. The character was well written and had little nuances such as crushing all burner phones he touches that help sell Conrad Miller as a skilled man.
Everybody else is really just minor support, including RZA. He plays a decent Detective, though he is not given much to detect. There isn’t a great deal of story to buy in with him - he may as well be any cop - and that is the main complaint I have with the movie. The local corrupt sheriff (Louis Mandylor), the mystery assassin on Miller’s trail, the Russian diplomats, even Miller’s girlfriend: they are all merely window dressing for the story of Luke Goss the Marine Putting Things Right on his Way to Freedom. I suppose they are like the bass guitarist in a band; they are not the star, but you notice when they are not there in the background laying a good foundation. All of the extra bodies in the film help flesh it out and make it more believable, however each on their own do not add much in the way of character. A smoking habit from the Russian agent Cushko (Adam Gregor) are about as deep as we go with character building here.
AWOL-72 is a little bland, but not offensively so. The film is obviously shot digitally and has the same annoying over-bright look (blue skies are bright white) that we see a lot of nowadays. There’s a few twists to keep you on your toes, though they are not anything outrageously different to any other thriller. I am not one that minds cookie-cutter films in the slightest if they are done well, and AWOL-72 is done well enough. Worth a watch.
The showdown in the cafe with Goss, Woodbine and Christina Brown is the best demonstration of action in the film.