An unpretentious, undemanding update of the Under Siege blueprint, Interceptor is speedy, modest, low-engagement action filmmaking tailor-made for Netflix. (The film begins streaming on the service Friday.) There’s no real X factor to elevate it above a median point of the average-action pack, but the film debut of Australian pulp novelist Matthew Reilly (close kin to Clive Cussler and Lee Child) embraces modest aims and exploits them for sufficiently silly thrills.
Placing the movie on Elsa Pataky’s short-statured, but indisputably broad, shoulders helps. Pataky has frittered on the fringes of past Fast & Furious films but breaks out with bullet-chomping dialogue as tough as her physical stunts.
She plays J.J. Collins, a captain bounced from one unenviable post to another after a sexual-harassment whistleblowing decision for which she’s still paying the price years later. It’s an unexpectedly topical turn on the tropes that mostly works. (“I heard you grew up in Spain at a base your dad was posted at!” goes the handy exposition to explain Pataky’s accent a la Jean-Claude van Damme.)
Collins’ latest bad break? SBX-1, a seaborne platform 1,500 miles north of Hawaii (resembling a CGI version of Stromberg’s Atlantis from The Spy Who Loved Me). It’s one of two sites from which American military forces can destroy enemy nuclear missiles in flight. Terrorists have taken the other one in Alaska, and Collins’ first day coincides with the bad guys’ Pacific plans to point 16 missiles at 16 American cities.
A SEAL team won’t arrive for 90 minutes, by which time America will essentially be erased. “We’re the only thing standing between America and Armageddon,” Collins tells Shah (Mayen Mehta), the nebbish tech alongside whom she panic-rooms herself inside SBX-1’s high-tech command center. On the other side of the door? Alexander Kessel (Luke Bracey), a mansplaining, malcontented, millionaire mercenary who will leave no manipulation unexplored.
Interceptor sets all its pins up in 10 minutes and spends the next 80 happily toppling them, from Collins’ catchphrase about fucking up peoples’ days to hilariously squishy, visceral kills. It’s blissfully simple, short and snappy, coasting on Pataky’s snappy demeanor that’s part underdog and part Energizer Bunny — small enough to be blown backward by a shotgun kick but big enough to bring down a fridge on someone. Bracey also makes for a sturdy, villainous buttface.
Although nowhere near the giddy heights of Con Air or the Kingsman franchise, Interceptor at least remembers a spoonful of saucy humor helps its thematically progressive medicine go down — rigged as it is to rile chumps lamenting a specific lack of American greatness. (Director and co-writer Reilly teamed with Aussie native and Hollywood veteran Stuart Beattie, who wrote Collateral, on the film’s script.) Not for nothing, either, is Collins’ heroism broadcast around the world, where her past problems and potentially present failures are exploited on a global scale; when Kessel tells Collins that she’s proven she is beatable, it cuts with more chill than expected.
Interceptor boasts Chris Hemsworth (Pataky’s spouse) as an executive producer and Sam Hargrave as its action consultant. Certainly, more people will have streamed Hemsworth and Hargrave’s past Netflix film, Extraction, than will Interceptor. But it’s far more fun and faster-paced than that film’s slow-cruising bruising and a more entertaining game of missile chicken than No Time to Die could muster. It’s hard to gauge whether Interceptor will propel Pataky into the same space as Noomi Rapace, queen of streaming action, but you could certainly run into worse action films.