Title: 5 Days of War
Director: Renny Harlin
Starring: Rupert Friend, Richard Coyle, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Val Kilmer, Heather Graham, Johnathon Schaech, Rade Sherbedgia, Dean Cain, Andy Garcia
There are those direct-to-video movies that somehow, rather inexplicably and seemingly unfairly, bypass theaters altogether and arrive on DVD with an entirely unearned stench of career desperation (this was to be the fate of “Slumdog Millionaire,” actually, until Fox Searchlight rescued it from the clutches of Warner Bros., who knew not what they had — or at least not how to market it), and then there are those straight genre programmers that feature a third-tier wrestler-turned-actor, and were never being made with theatrical distribution in mind anyway. “5 Days of War,” from director Renny Harlin, actually seems like the inverse of the former — a straight-to-video movie that somehow won a theatrical release lottery ticket — and not merely because of the presence of an increasingly pudgy Val Kilmer and Rade Sherbedgia, who must have swapped stories about their good old days on the set of a bloated studio production like “The Saint.”
No, “5 Days of War” is an air-quote serious international action thriller, based on a true story and all that — in this case about a renegade American journalist, Thomas Anders (Rupert Friend), and his tag-along English pal, Sebastian Ganz (Richard Coyle), dangerously caught behind enemy lines during 2008’s dust-up between Russia and the Georgian Republic. It’s also a clumsy, inartful and cliched mess. The script, by David Battle and Mikko Alanne, is a hodge-podge of elements seen many times before, in movies from “Harrison’s Flowers,” “The Constant Gardener” and “The Hunting Party” to “The Situation,” “Behind Enemy Lines” and any number of other war films. As Thomas, Sebastian and the audience learn humanizing lessons from impossibly hot Georgian schoolteacher Tatia (the impossibly hot Emmanuelle Chriqui), a parade of recognizable faces pop up in cameo roles to let one know that this is an Important Movie, by golly.
Additionally, and probably most damning though, is Harlin’s bombastic style — made for popcorn entertainment and larger-than-life thrills. This tack effectively undercuts the real-life horrors he wishes to throw a spotlight upon. The root causes of the conflict, the political considerations influencing events on the ground, are also given uncomfortably short shift, and the entire result feels like an embarrassing throwback to the days of unthinking, 1980s-style Russian movie villainy. Some directors surprisingly have an “art film” lurking inside of film. Renny Harlin is not one of those filmmakers.
Written by: Brent Simon