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‘Interceptor’: It’s Elsa Pataky Vs. Nuclear Missles In Netflix’s Entertaining, But Formulaic Actioner

From the beginning, Pataky has the vibe of being a smaller Arnold Schwarzenegger, from how she delivers cold classics like “I thought I was done with this shit” or handles one-off bits of comic relief. And she is a Schwarzenegger-grade machine in the movie, too, engaging in its visually clear-enough interludes of hand-to-hand combat, which sometimes end with a surprising kill. Pataky kicks ample portions of ass here, doing just about everything (one-handed monkey bars!) other than jumping really, really high and punching the nukes out of the clouds herself. 

Going hand-in-hand with the story’s rah-rah American super-soldier indulgence is a more meaningful angle involving the history of sexual allegations in the armed forces. JJ is such a survivor who suffered even more trauma from trolls after going public with her accusation and effectively calling out her abuser. Pataky puts on a steely face and swallowed anger at everything, and the story then frames this as her type of extraordinary way for America to respect her all over again, which is a little clunky. But it’s a generally more honorable than not approach to the subject, tied with the story using people who are mad about diversity as its villains. “Interceptor” fashions some type of message about the people who are wrong with America, but that the nation is still worth saving. 

“Interceptor” relies on tropes elsewhere, as with its character dynamics. There are clear limits for a side character named Shah, who also works the command room, wears glasses, and is given a soulful turn by Mayen Mehta. And the film indulges in one of the most tedious action genre tropes: villains who have to say a bunch of words before committing their evil act, only to be beaten to the punch or the gunshot. Bracey, in particular, who fashions a sociopath out of a generic piece of white bread, just won’t shut the hell up about his motivations for destroying America and how he is outraged about his privilege, etc. That he does this with all of America watching, having hacked into every feed in the nation, doesn’t make his babbling more menacing. It just kills time.

But the movie usually has good pacing on its side, thanks to plotting that puts one big all-or-nothing challenge in front of JJ after the next, with a consistent sense of when the clock will run out. A lot of the movie takes place inside that control room. It’s a testament to the game writing by director Matthew Reilly and co-writer Stuart Beattie how it makes one acutely aware of how many weapons and exits are available, if any, while shaking up the different ways that the baddies try to get past the thick steel doors and the even tougher exterior of JJ. 

It’s almost, almost enough to look past how general circumstances are barely nerve-wracking, or that the digital effects for the ominous nukes are especially junky, or that it’s kind of silly that a defense system can clearly identify a warhead in the sky and not just automatically fire back against it. “Interceptor” convinces you enough that only JJ can save the people of America, which includes the dopey bearded TV salesman who you’ll recognize after a few seconds, and the movie then cuts back to again and again. “Interceptor” is about putting on a show, and Pataky has the muscular charisma to carry it. [B-]

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