Film Focus: Review of WWE Studios’ Armed Response

WWE Studios –partnering with KISS front-man Gene Simmons — delves back into their cinematic endeavors with upcoming sci-fi thriller Armed Response. The film follows a team of operatives on their mission to uncover the unusual disappearance of a group of squad mates. Led by Chief Isaac (Wesley Snipes), the group ventures to a high-security military complex (quaintly dubbed the “Temple”) to investigate the premises.

The band of specialists includes Gabriel — the creator of the Temple (played by Dave Annable), the veteran Riley (Anne Heche), and the brawny Brett (WWE Superstar Seth Rollins). During the assignment, the Temple inexplicably shut down, effectively locking the group inside of its walls. The team is tasked with working together in order to escape, all while attempting to solve the mystery of the missing group that came before them.

What follows is a string of paranormal and shocking occurrences. Little by little, the team begins to piece together what happened to the previous inhabitants. It’s quickly revealed that the AI has a mind of its own, as the Temple begins to play mental tricks on the cast. The activity becomes so intense that the once banded-together crew begins to turn on each other, as the quest for survival becomes the name of the game with multiple twists and turns along the way.

Director John Stockwell (Top Gun, Into the Blue) does a good job of building up the suspense throughout, showcasing the increased anxiety within the crew as the Temple individually torments each one. Snipes, starring in his first film since Spike Lee’s 2015 Chi-Raq, performs admirably as Chief Isaac, a seasoned military commander. Annable and Heche work as the conscious of the film, as the latter portion truly explores the remorse of their past mistakes. Rollins fit surprisingly well in his role, delivering one-liners and providing legitimate intensity to combat scenes. It surely wasn’t the worst performance a wrestler has given via a WWE Studios production.

With a 90-minute run time, the film gets down to business fairly quickly. There isn’t a whole lot of time to dig deep into character backstories – as short snippets are used to bring certain character traits and nuances to the forefront. While the story is easy enough to follow, the use of flashbacks can become a bit confusing. The special effects are a bit campy, especially in a scene when the Temple springs to life. It takes away a bit from the more realistic aspects of the plot. The movie could have afforded to show less in these situations, leaving the ambiguity up to the viewer instead.

If we were to grade Armed Response on the letter scale it would depend on where you classify it. As a WWE Studios production, it would earn a B. It’s not quite as good as The Rundown, but it certainly is nothing like the tragedy that was Leprechaun: Origins. Although the hour and a half run-time is welcomed in today’s cinema, it all feels a bit rushed. The first act of the movie is downright slow, while the last act is filled with the action and turns you would hope for.

All in all, Armed Response has a very solid cast and enough action to be worth the watch when it releases on August 4th, 2017.