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Review: 'American Renegades' looks fancy but is just a by-the-numbers military exercise

Review: 'American Renegades' looks fancy but is just a by-the-numbers military exercise
J.K. Simmons in the movie "American Renegades." (Reiner Bajo / EuropaCorp)

Though it’s directed by former James Cameron associate Steven Quale, and co-produced and co-written by Luc Besson, the action-adventure “American Renegades” accomplishes the impossible: It makes a story about sunken Nazi gold boring. The film boasts expensive, state-of-the-art special effects sequences, but fills the rest of its running time with off-the-shelf heroes and dialogue.

There’s exactly one memorable character in “American Renegades.” J.K. Simmons pops up in about a half-dozen scenes as Gen. Levin, a made-for-the-movies military officer, who snaps at his men when they defy orders but not-so-secretly admires their chutzpah.

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The guys on Levin’s special operations force never develop much personality, even as they swagger through a gutsy off-the-books mission. When team leader Matt Barnes (Sullivan Stapleton) and his right-hand man Stanton Baker (Charlie Bewley) learn from the latter’s Serbian girlfriend, Lara (Sylvia Hoeks), about $300 million worth of ingots stuck in a flooded Bosnian town, they decide to “liberate” the treasure, to help the locals.

Set in the mid-’90s, “American Renegades” feels like a dusty relic of the past — and not just because the film wrapped production a few years ago. Quale and his crew clearly want this to be a good old-fashioned two-fisted caper, but the pacing is leaden and the plot lacks imagination. Worst of all, nobody really bothered to give the picture an angle. It’s all straight, flat and dull.

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'American Renegades'

Rating: PG-13, for violence, brief sexuality and language

Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Playing: Arena Cinelounge, Hollywood

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