Black Site promises excitement but ultimately underwhelms.

Pallavi Sharda as Tessa Harijan in Black Site - Courtesy RedBox
Pallavi Sharda as Tessa Harijan in Black Site - Courtesy RedBox /

Black Site promises excitement, but ultimately underwhelms with a hackneyed concept and plot holes abounding.  If you’ve seen a movie about a prisoner breaking free inside a prison and wreaking havoc, you’ve seen Black Site, and probably done better.

The movie opens with footage of an explosion in Istanbul and a news report about the hospital it consumed including ten dead Americans, and specifically a US doctor and his daughter.  The possible international consequences of the incident are clear with so many civilians dead and injured, having flooded the hospital after a car bombing days earlier with no one claiming responsibility.

Next we see Michelle Monaghan‘s character, CIA analyst Abby, listening to the last voice message from her doctor husband and young daughter before speaking at their funeral where she clearly blames herself for their deaths.  Directly after, she is told she’s being transferred back to the states under protest – it seems that her investigation into the explosion is ruffling some feathers.  Inexplicably, she gets what she wants, and instead of heading to the states, she is transferred to a base, codename: Citadel, in the Jordanian desert. The primary objective of Citadel is to share information between five English-speaking nations and, because of its location, work with Israeli Mossad  to “fight terror with terror” and do things “no one will ever know about”.  So cliché.

Nothing can go wrong at this black site.

So within the first five minutes of the movie, the premise is set, mostly using voice over (a plot device that writers tend to use as a crutch) – Abby, a CIA analyst with a personal connection to the crime, is sent to the middle of the desert to continue her investigation, with the opportunity to interview the suspected terrorists who might have intel face-to-face, AND protect the servers hosting the intelligence data (on-site only), even though there are many more qualified operatives to do this.  There is no way anything can go wrong under these circumstances.

Phoenix Raei as Uri Wasserman and Michelle Monaghan as Abby Trent in Black Site - Courtesy RedBox
Phoenix Raei as Uri Wasserman and Michelle Monaghan as Abby Trent in Black Site – Courtesy RedBox /

After ten months of investigation, Abby has determined that the explosion must have been targeting someone inside the hospital, and is inconsistent with a single bomber, looking more like a drone missile strike  – a theory that she sends off in a message to…someone at Langley. So now that we have Abby set up for success in middle of the Jordanian desert with her don’t-play-by-the-book compadres Miller (Jai Courtney) and Briggs (Lincoln Lewis) – enters the Big Bad Hatchet (Jason Clarke), a notoriously gruesome killer that Abby believes responsible for the hospital attack, who is too easily captured based on too-specific intel from a prisoner in the Citadel.

Interrupting a good-bye party for Abby who is being summoned back to the states for unknown (even to her) reasons, the base receives word of Hatchet’s capture and imminent arrival to the Citadel.  In comes a Special Ops team with orders from Langley that break protocol, allowing a 40-minute investigation of Hatchet with no cameras or video.  Shockingly, all hell (and Hatchet) breaks loose and the death toll immediately rises to to five in as many minutes as Hatchet is now free to roam. Hatchet’s first order of business is to immediately disable all the comms, thus initiating a 60-minute countdown until a drone strike (irony?) takes out the entire base and everyone in it.

60 minutes of action-thriller excitement as Hatchet infiltrates the black site.

Now that the exposition is done in a clunky, blink and you’ll miss a key detail, manner, the explosions, murders, and fights abound – and it is bloody good fun.  The chemistry between Abby and her Citadel team (other than the “bad boys” that mutiny to ill effects, of course) is actually quite good even though their interactions are brief.  The fight choreography, particularly between Hatchet and Miller is excellent, and Hatchet – renowned for his creative, gruesome kills – doesn’t disappoint.  The problem is, it’s all been done before – with a better plot and more sympathetic characters.  The entire premise is terribly flimsy, and the way things go awry can be projected from a mile away.  The very end of the movie, when a car inexplicably arrives in the middle of the desert to escort the surviving hitchhiker(s) to safety, pretty much sums up what I thought about the movie – silly, unbelievable, and overdone.  If the movie had actually picked up where the final voice-over leaves off – THAT would be an interesting movie.  Call me when someone makes THAT film.

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Did you watch the new Black Site?  What did YOU think of the movie??  Sound off in the comments!