Review by Sean Boelman
What filmmakers don’t realize is that it isn’t enough to simply make a thriller that is thrilling — the audience has to be given a reason to care about the story. Jonathan W. Stokes’s film Wildcat is undeniably exciting throughout its entire runtime, but it’s also very shallow and has little meaning.
The movie follows a journalist who is kidnapped after her convoy is ambushed and brutally interrogated by terrorists looking for information that she may or may not know. It’s basically a survival film under the guise of a military thriller. This is the type of conflict that one would expect to lead into something greater, but it never does.
For better or worse, the movie is a lot shorter than most similar flicks at just over ninety minutes including credits. Stokes maintains the tension throughout the entire runtime, but even though viewers will have their heart pounding, it won’t necessarily be out of suspense. Rather, it will be due to the stress of watching constant intimidation and torture.
Without a doubt, the biggest issue with this film is that it doesn’t seem to have anything to say. Thankfully, it isn’t as jingoistic as a majority of movies about terrorism in the Middle East are, but that doesn’t make it any more empathetic. Maybe this was meant to be an inspiring story of perseverance, but it revels in the characters’ misery too much to make that point.
The character development in the film is also entirely shallow. The villain is not supposed to know whether or not the protagonist is telling the truth, but keeping the audience equally in the blind prevents us from forming that connection to her. And while there are a few other supporting characters on both sides, they are all forgettable.
That said, there is some good acting in the movie. Georgina Campbell’s performance is very convincing, even if the majority of her responsibilities is to scream in pain. Ibrahim Renno’s performance is also one-note, but in the opposite way, completely menacing in an exaggerated but effective way.
For the most part, the film is well-made, taking advantage of the confined setting to create a ton of suspense. Admittedly, the production design is quite minimalistic, but it does its job. The highlight of the movie, if one can even call it that, are the torture sequences which are miserably horrifying in their portrayal.
Wildcat is a mindless action movie despite its premise suggesting that it won’t be something so straightforward. There are some good things going on here, but it ultimately feels like a prolonged beginning for a more prolific project.
Wildcat hits theaters on April 23 and VOD on April 27.