Film Review: Armed Response

Low-budget high-tech thriller pits grunts against a supercomputer run amok in this too-familiar tale of man against machine.
Specialty Releases

If there were a competition for flat-out awful movie titles, Armed Response would be a serious contender by virtue of being both blandly anonymous and blatantly misleading: Viewers expecting a boots-on-the-ground military action picture will be sorely disappointed to find that while most of the characters are indeed in the armed forces and do have access to an array of weaponry, almost all of the movie unfolds on multiple video screens inside an isolated complex dedicated to high-tech surveillance.

Gabriel (Dave Annable) is the high-powered computer guy behind the U.S. government's top secret "temple" project, the key developer of a supercomputer designed to simultaneously record and interpret a wide range of a micro-responses during a subject's interrogation. What makes the temple system special is that it doesn't just flag inconsistencies and evasions. It can make inferences based on data so subtle that the results look like mind-reading. But Gabriel has been on leave since his little daughter's death, wallowing in the kind of self-castigating misery that usually signifies the kind of dangerous damage that sabotages missions, but doesn't seem to mean much here.

When Site 9, one of the 13 temples scattered across the globe—the only one located on U.S. soil, though that doesn't have any particular significance in terms of the way the story plays out—abruptly goes offline, Gabriel is part of the Special Forces team mustered to take a look. They include bad-asses Isaac (Wesley Snipes), Brett (Seth Rollins) and Riley (Anne Heche), plus an assortment of ensign expendables who are dispatched to the malfunctioning facility, which is housed in a repurposed prison complex. After some metaphorical kicking the tires and poking around under the hood, they start finding the bloody corpses of the missing research team along with a live Afghan general, Ahmadi (Mo Gallini), and weird inconsistencies in the video record—it's as though they're “only seeing what the system wants them to see…” Cue the portentous music.

Armed Response's debt to Alien is evident throughout—footage of the missing research team eating breakfast in Site 9's galley is a dead ringer for the equivalent sequence on board the Nostromo—but the movie also owes classic computer shockers like Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970) for its vision of AIs gone rogue. The low budget and second tier will ensure that Armed Response will do the bulk of its business in nontheatrical markets, but kudos to Snipes and Heche for delivering strong performances in underwritten roles.

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