So far, all my experiences have led me to believe that a movie with foil box art is an omen of utter shittiness. Whenever I run across a box that glimmers, I am flooded with horrible childhood memories of trolling comic shops during the 90s when every company was producing eighty different cover variants, featuring scads of dumb fucking gimmickry, from foil, to gate fold, to polybag condoms with trading cards, and even holograms in order to up the potential collectability of their title. In the process, the big two did a marvelous job of glutting the market with a high volume of sparkly crap nobody wanted, and pretty much destroyed it in the process. Since then, I have been completely wary of anything that happens to glitter. What some may see as a cute feature, I see as a cheap distraction crafted with the intention of making me think that, “hey, this thing is gleaming like Ra’s anus. It MUST be special!” Don’t believe the hype my friends. If it’s bedazzled, then it has gotta be bullshit, and “Thunder Squad” is another round of ammo in my argument’s chamber.
At first look, this is a potentially promising affair. Antonio Sabato is present, and Umberto Lenzi at the helm should at the very least yield some pretty raw violence. Even the box art itself is pretty great, featuring a misfit cavalry, tarrying forth to stomp some Bolivian ass no doubt. The cover is actually pretty great… but it has that goddamn foil finish, which defies all probable goodness. It is a figurative head on a pike, but being the morbidly curious guy that I am, I live and die by a single question: “just how bad can it really be?” Well, situations like this have lead to a new definition to describe the very bowels of awfulness: It’s FOIL COVER-BAD.
Following a blood thirsty dictator’s hostile takeover of an undisclosed South American country, a clusterfuck of governments conclude that the previous despotic ruler was less of an asshole and decide to enact a plot that will put him back in charge. But when the opposition gets a whiff of the plan, they kidnap the original dictator’s son, thus preventing him from seeking rule once again. The rest of the story is a total flatline that follows a pack of crack mercenaries, aided by a supposedly sexy demolitions expert, on a mission to free the boy. Shortly after rescuing the kid, his father is assassinated and our mercenaries end up stranded in the South American wilds with the kid and a pissed off army hot on their trail. One of the good guys pulls a heel turn and decides he’s not going to die just for some kid, even though he had previously agreed to go into the jungles to fight guerillas for the same kid only a few days ago. Whatever, pal. The kid eventually leads them to an allied border, but not without a few casualties, and that’s about it. Overall, the movie is a total snooze, the characters are barely there, and the violence itself is unspectacular for a Lenzi effort. The film’s ending feels like the conclusion of an episode of the A-team. For an episodic television show that’s going to be back next week, it would have been fine, but for a film it feels totally abrupt.
The film’s fatal soft spot truly is the lack of character development. We’re presented with types we’re supposed to accept, but we never learn much about their background, their bond, or who they are as people, which makes it virtually impossible to give a shit about anything they do. A huge component in making violence impactful is the characters involved in the explosions. Without any idea of who these people are, I just can’t be bothered to care. No one here is even remotely likable. The demolition chick is a bitch, the mercenaries are one step away from becoming creepy rapists, and THESE are the guys with the integrity. Tack on an annoying kid and I start to run real low on give-a-shits.
Though I contemplated turning the film off at several points, there was one scene early on that compelled me to keep watching. Following news of the boy’s kidnapping, the government gathers three of the world’s best psychics. They’re brought into a room, hooked up to an electronic scanning device, and each gives a reading which pieces together the exact coordinates of the boy’s location. This was a rather convoluted plot device to introduce, so I was curious as to whether or not the psychics would return at some point in the story. They never do, which left me completely baffled and disappointed at the end of the film as to why they even bothered to add a supernatural element to this story. Recommended only for those hell bent on knowing the work of Lenzi intimately. “Thunder Squad” is also interesting for its striking similarities to not only the last “Rambo” film, but “The Expendables” as well. There are some parallels between these films that left me wondering if this was one of Stallone’s influences. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time.