Redemption Day (2021)

A returning war hero is quickly thrown back into it when his wife is kidnapped while on an archeological expedition by newly minted terrorists.

Directed by Hicham Hajji who co-wrote with Sam Chouia and Lemore Syvan, Redemptoin Day is an attempt at a new angle on the the war hero and kidnapped loved one story, it’s like a mix between a war film and the Taken series with characters that are easier to care about than the usual fare in this sub-genre. Here the leads are done well and not over-written, they each have a personality and the kidnap victim is not simply a victim, she is a full person with goals and a life before she gets taken and is kept for her husband to come save. Here the film goes through the other sides of things as well, where the US government does what it does while debating sending a rescue team to her and the bad guys are shown doing what they do. While these other sides are shown, the most interesting parts are that of the wife and her husband with the government part and terrorist part of the story feeling a bit more generic and as expected. Overall, the couple at the center of the film really does sell it and their drama and action are easy to get into and watch.

Redemption Day is all about Gary Dourdan and Serinda Swan, they make the film. They both give performances that are believable as separate people and as a couple. This sets the tone for the entire film really and is a thankful happenstance as they are on the screen separately or together for the majority of the film. Their work is fantastic and Swan needs to be noted here as she gives the right nuances to her character. This film is full of faces that viewers will recognize and some of them do much better than the others of course. The most fun one to see here and who should have gotten just a little more screen time is Ernie Hudson as Dourdan’s character’s dad. He’s dad-like, he’s a bit of a rock, and a fun grandpa, he’s the kind of dad that you’d want to have and he shows up for his family, giving a natural performance here that is something that is expected of Hudson at this point and always great to see of course.

One performance that was watched for here was that of Samy Naceri as the lead baddie, the lead terrorist and while his work is good in most part, something feel unfortunately off about his performance which may come from the writing, directing, or from personal choices. Of course, he acts in multiple languages here, but those who are fans are used to this. The hard to identify thing that is off is just enough to make his performance something that is a bit sad for fans who know he’s good and he’s usually so in just about any part. Something here doesn’t work and it may very well be the more generic baddie he’s given here, angry, not many layers to him, just there to get his ransom and make his point, killing people like they don’t matter. Yes, a bad guy can have layers and be a bit more than just 100% pure evil, it even helps make them more human. Perhaps the idea was to dehumanize the bad guy here, and if so, it worked well, but at the same time, it makes the film lose a bit of its dimension.

Redemption Day has another big player in the story, the locations. These are mostly in the desert and they are shot beautifully. The cinematography by Philip Lozano gives the film a great look. It doesn’t show the Middle East as a just a war-thorn location, but also as a place with beauty and lots of it in its dune, its desert, its environment. Of course, as the story advances, this environment is shown as desolate and somewhere where someone could really disappear. This evolution works for the film and works in setting the story in a place that is not just scary at times, but also can be welcoming at others.

Redemption Day is the story of a man coming back from war hailed a hero who feels the damage of the war and finds his footing when his wife is taken and he must revert to his old ways to be able to save her and his family in the process. The film could have been a completely cheesy one, but it’s not. Despite a fairly one-dimensional group of bad guys, the films manages to make something out of the central couple and makes it more interesting than a simple rescue as the victim as well as her savior are more than one dimension characters and they keep the viewers involved.

Saban Films will release REDEMPTION DAY In Theaters January 8th On Digital, and On Demand January 12th.