Assault on VA-33 (USA, 2021)

Continuing his rise as an indie action star, Sean Patrick Flanery becomes a reluctant one-man army against a terrorist organization in this thriller.

After a mission had gone awry, ex-Special Forces officer Jason Hill is home and is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Everyday, he goes to the VA hospital in Oakside, a suburb of Buffalo, to see therapist Dr. Gutterman and to see his wife, fellow therapist Jennifer. When Jason is set to meet Jennifer for lunch along with their daughter Sara, he learns Jennifer must meet with General Welch, the military Joint Chiefs of Staff. However, things are about to go south.

Adrian Rabikov, a Russian terrorist, is searching for his brother, who is believed to have been taken captive under Welch’s orders. With an international team of mercenaries behind his back, Rabikov learns that Welch is at the VA hospital and he sets off on a course to take the hospital staff hostage along with Welch to get the location of his brother. Jason, fearing something is not right when he notices some strange occurrences, his attempts to reach the police prove futile. Now, Jason has no other choice but to find out what is happening and find a way to save everyone.

Directed by the son of indie auteur Fred Olen Ray, this film is a run by the numbers indie action film that is highlighted by its core cast. Scott Thomas Reynolds’ script uses a trend in some action films today: a former military officer stricken by PTSD who is forced in a situation where he or she is forced into action once again.

This time, we have Sean Patrick Flanery, who is making his way to be a top name in indie action this year with his films Born a Champion and American Fighter. Here he plays Jason Hill, a PTSD-stricken officer who lets the condition get the best of him at times and it is when he finally reveals the mission that causes it to the therapist, we see him get a sense of relief. However, when he sees something suspicious, the fact he suffers from PTSD is proof enough for the police to think he may be lying. Of course, it turns out he is right and with virtually no help, he must become this one-man army against the terrorists.

The terrorist Adrian Rabikov is played by Weston Cage Coppola, the son of icon Nicolas Cage. Coppola actually does a pretty good job for the most part in the role. At times, he does go a bit over the top and would make his father proud. His henchmen are sometimes bumbling and question certain things. However, this is a welcome departure for indie comedy filmmaker Richard Gabai, whose work is more known in the 1990s like Virgin High and Kickboxing Academy. Here, he goes against type as main henchman Erik, who leads the mercenaries who are doing the job as part of the ransom. The group includes both actors and stunt performers.

Those who are expecting Michael Jai White and even wrestling legend Rob Van Dam to get in on any action will sorely be disappointed. White plays the town’s police chief who ultimately must find a way to help Jason in the mission after he’s denied by the FBI. As for Van Dam, his character of Zero spends his scenes in the getaway van just talking and waiting for orders. While he offers a chance to take care of Hill, he’s also denied and sadly, I would have been all for a Flanery vs. Van Dam fight. On the upside, Mark Dacascos, as sniper Jackson, gets in on some action as he engages in a fight against Flanery, who is a black belt in Brazilian Jiujitsu and shows some kickboxing style moves. In part of the fight, Jason even gives Jackson a compliment on his moves before it ends too abruptly.

Assault on VA-33 is pretty much what can be called a “one and done”. You will watch it once and most likely, forget all about it. Despite the cast involved, there are some denials in terms of action but you could give Weston Cage Coppola credit for making quite a villain who can be empathetic at times and Sean Patrick Flanery is continuing to be a stalwart in today’s indie action cinema.

WFG RATING: C-

Saban Films and BD Films presents a Deinstitutionalized LLC production. Director: Christopher Douglas-Olen Ray. Producers: Eric Black, Tammy Thrasher, Gerald Webb and Christopher Douglas-Olen Ray. Writer: Scott Thomas Reynolds. Cinematography: Alexander Yellen. Editing: Jeff Murphy.

Cast: Sean Patrick Flanery, Weston Cage Coppola, Rob Van Dam, Abigail Hawk, Gina Holden, Rachel True, Max Adler, Brittany Underwood, Gerald Webb, Richard Gabai, Sean Huze, Mark Dacascos, Michael Jai White.

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