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.
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.
Rating: PG-13, for violence, brief sexuality and language
Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Playing: Arena Cinelounge, Hollywood