Hidden Strike Review

Hidden Strike
Baghdad. After a failed rescue mission to escort a group of scientists away from an oil refinery under siege by rebels, Chinese ex-Special Forces soldier Dragon Luo (Jackie Chan) joins forces with US gun-for-hire Chris Van Horne (John Cena), who has his own personal reasons for tracking down the insurgents.

by Ian Freer |
Updated on
Release Date:

04 Aug 2023

Original Title:

Hidden Strike

When Quentin Tarantino recently talked about Netflix films “not existing in the zeitgeist”, he may well have been talking about Hidden Strike. Directed by Scott Waugh (Need For Speed, the upcoming The Expendables 4), this action thriller pairing Jackie Chan with John Cena crept onto the platform with zero fanfare and subsequently does little to do anything that lodges in the memory.

The story feels like something cooked up in a nerdy 14-year-old’s bedroom. Commander Dragon Luo (Chan), the leader of Shadow Squad (honestly), heads up a mission to extract workers from a Middle Eastern oil refinery under attack from rebels. The only way out is through the Highway Of Death — just off The Interstate Of Existential Angst, presumably — where the coach convoy comes under attack from a band of mercenaries who have seemingly wandered in from Mad Max: Fury Road.

The selling point of the film – the promising double act of Jackie Chan and John Cena – is badly fumbled.

Among their number is American soldier of fortune Chris (Cena), whose only personality trait is his frankly annoying habit of giving everyone and everything a nickname. Chris is in the pay of Big Bad Owen Paddock (Pilou Asbæk) but, when he is double crossed, Chris joins forces with Luo to save Professor Cheng (Jiang Wenli), keeper of an all-important dongle (never has a film uttered the word “dongle” so often), and take down Paddock. Reading this back, this is an insult to nerdy-14-year-olds.

En route there are modern action film tropes a-plenty; an estranged daughter (Chan's), a dead father (Cena's), unconvincing CGI deserts, unfunny one-liners, and an action-filled final act that lasts an eternity (at one point Chan battles a tattooed goon in what feels like a foam party in an early-noughties Watford nightclub). The selling point of the film — the promising double act of Chan and Cena — is badly fumbled. It takes an age for them to get together and when they finally team up, the writing either saddles them with lacklustre banter or splits them up as if contractual demands require they have their own time in the sun. As ever with Chan, the film ends with end-credit outtakes and deleted scenes — and all of these show far more comedy chops and chemistry between the leads than anything that made it into the official running time.

Some of the fight choreography is impressive — there’s a fun scrap on a coach that doesn’t involve either Chan and Cena — and Waugh conjures up the odd eye-catching shot, but overall this is a hackneyed, limp affair. It comes to something when the financier idents at the start are more imaginative and engaging than the film that follows.

A meandering, unfunny, mostly flat effort, Hidden Strike is a disappointing waste of two immensely likeable stars. Head straight to the super-fun outtakes.
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