The iconic shot in John Milius’s Red Dawn (1984) comes early: A close-up of a bumper sticker approximating the NRA’s “I’ll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands” slogan pans to a Russian soldier stepping on a dead civilian’s wrist and doing exactly that. There’s no such irony in Luke Sparke’s Occupation, an earnest alien-invasion action film that plays like Red Dawn with the serial numbers (and geopolitical paranoia) or something like that filed off.
That’s not entirely a bad thing if you’re up for watching a handful of ragtag rebels fend off an overwhelming force, and the combination of the Australian setting and the outer-space antagonists means that American audiences, at least, can enjoy the fireworks without being distracted by jingoistic hoo-ha. Yet it also makes the film feel weightless, a Saturday morning cartoon about the importance of sticking together despite our differences in the face of a common threat.
The cast, led by Dan Ewing, Temuera Morrison, and Stephany Jacobsen, delivers sturdy character work, and the action is clear and well-executed, but none of it ventures beyond well-trod ground. Occupation is an action-movie throwback, a comfortable old combat boot. It’s rousing in the old, familiar ways, but shouldn’t all that sound and fury signify something?
Written and directed by Luke Sparke
Opens July 20, Village East Cinema
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This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 18, 2018