By: John M Jerva
REVIEW: The 2nd
STARRING: Ryan Phillippe, Casper Van Dien, Jack Griffo, Samaire Armstrong, Richard Burgi
DIRECTED BY: Brian Skiba
Secret-service agent Vic Davis (Phillippe) is on his way to pick up his estranged son, Shawn (Jack Griffo), from his college campus when he finds himself in the middle of a high-stakes terrorist operation.
THE REVIEW: If you follow me and my website then you know that I am a huge fan of the current trend of throwback action films being made today that celebrate a time when action cinema was king and movie theaters were packed with one amazing title after another. Not only in cinemas but it seemed that there were numerous adrenaline-soaked choices to choose from at your local video stores (yes younger readers, there was a time when we had to drive to a local video store to get our fix and we loved it). With big budget blockbusters loading our senses with CGI filled spectacles and superhero flicks, the indie filmmakers have taken it upon themselves to remind us just what true action films were like. Films with practical stunts and effects were how things were done back in the 80’s and 90’s and today it is almost extinct. If it wasn’t for these brave men and women who ride the edge of creativity, this art form would be lost forever.
With that I give you the latest shot of throwback action cinema in The 2nd which hails from the most unlikeliest of sources in filmmaker Brian Skiba who has been credited by the media as a filmmaker who is up and coming. Skiba, up until now has pretty much dabbled in family friendly flicks but deep down inside, he’s a massive fan of testosterone laden action films just like you and me. With The 2nd, Skiba has crafted a wonderful homage to those films that filled Blockbuster shelves every week and with it he has brought some serious firepower in the form of Ryan Phillippe, who is coming off a successful stint on USA’s action series Shooter, and the one and onlt Casper Van Dien who really needs no introduction. The film had a modest budget to say the least and was made in around 15 days which is nothing short of phenomenal. How do I know this? Well, he told me himself in our exclusive chat which you can listen to now on the Action Fix Podcast.
In The 2nd, Phillippe stars as former special forces operative turned secret service bad ass Vic Davis who like so many action heroes in the past have suffered a major loss during an assignment gone awry and now he’s looking to forget about the past and move forward and spend some quality time with his college aged son Sean played by Jack Griffo. Sean’s college is closing down for the holidays and Vic sets out to pick him up to do some father and son bonding but unfortunately for everyone, Sean has hit it off with Olivia played by Samaire Armstrong who just happens to be the daughter of a Supreme Court Justice who is about to make a major vote on a sensitive topic that some bad people feel strongly about.
It seems that there are some very bad people who want said Justice to vote their way on an important issue coming before the government and in order to sway his opinion, they unleash The Driver (Van Dien) and his team of merciless mercenaries to kidnap Olivia at all costs. That’s where the title of the movie comes from as it refers to the 2nd Amendment. Unfortunately for them, Vic is on hand and is at the right place at the wrong time and he’s about to break out his best impersonation of John McClane and go “Yippee Ki-Ya” on all their asses. Just leave your brain at the door and have fun with is because it’s one hell of a ride.
As the film opens, Skiba wants to make sure that the audience knows that you’re watching an 80’s and 90’s style action flick as he gives us a rather impressive firefight between Davis and some baddies who are looking to kill a HVT he is looking after. The fight is simple but effective and it sets the stage for what we are in for and just how awesome Phillippe is going to be. Like I said, Phillippe is just coming off of doing three seasons of the USA network’s intense action series Shooter where he played elite Marine sniper Bob Lee Swagger. Phillippe nailed the role and showed us that when it comes to action, he can play with the big boys and here he has carried that character over in his role of Vic Davis who is a no-nonsense throwback one man army who has no problems shooting first and asking questions later as he delivers some choice one liners at the same time. The movie is loaded with great action set pieces and Phillippe is up for the challenge as he gets his hands dirty in the pic’s many scenes of firefights and fisticuffs. To top it off, Phillippe has great screen presence and really sells the part to go along with the physical stuff.
Now, of course, every good guy has to have a great bad guy and here that falls on the hands of genre favorite Casper Van Dien who plays the lead antagonist known simply as The Driver. This is his call sign because he impersonates the driver sent to pick up Olivia and even though we know nothing about him, we know that he’s dangerous and he has skills forged under years of combat somewhere in the world. What makes The Driver even more intriguing is the fact that he’s layered and what you see might not be what you get. Sure, he’s there for nefarious reasons but it’s a job and his loyalties are to those who pay him. He has no loyalties and will do what he can to finish the job. Dien plays the role with a hint of mystery and some of his actions that he makes throughout the course of the movie might suggest that he was good at one time and that that person may still be in there somewhere.
Another nice aspect is that the teens in the film are grounded as well, and you will care about them. Graff is good as Vic’s son Sean, and he proves to be capable just like his dad when the going gets tough. Olivia could have been annoying but Armstrong plays her with confidence and is likable so you will want to see her get through the ordeal like the others.
In terms of the action scenes, Skiba takes a page from those who know how it should look as the sequences are coherent and you can see what’s going on as the dreaded shaky cam effect is avoided here plus you can tell that Phillippe and Dien are doing as much of the action as they can. The plot does borrow from other old school action flicks like Die Hard as most of the excitement is confined to one building, but it does have an explosive finale as the action does move off site and Davis goes into full on Commando mode as he mows down a horde of assailants on his way to save the day. We even get the inevitable showdown between Davis and Driver and while it left me wanting more to a degree, I was still satisfied with what I saw.
Now I’m not going to spoil the ending for any of you that haven’t seen it yet, but the ending is a bit ambiguous, and it does set it up for a sequel which I am all for. Talking to Skiba for my Podcast, he mentioned that it was his intention to continue Davis’ story and that the second film as already been written. Phillippe has created a brand-new action hero in Vic Davis and here’s hoping that we do see more of him in the future. It’s a lot of fun and its intended target audience will totally get what Skiba is selling here. It’s no Oscar caliber stuff here folks but for what it is, it does just fine and will surely entertain on a Saturday night and if you’re looking for explosions, bullets and fists then you came to the right place.