400 BULLETS: Rising Action Star Jean-Paul Ly Headlines Meat & Potatoes Siege Film

You’ve seen it before, but this time Jean-Paul Ly is doing it!

“Honour should always be rewarded”

Unremarkable yet satisfying, the primary motivation for checking out 400 Bullets, the latest siege action film to hit the market, is headliner Jean-Paul Ly. With Jailbreak and Nightshooters already under his belt, Ly has become a rising talent to watch. While 400 Bullets doesn’t showcase Ly as much as either of those previous films, it is nice to see him getting leading man roles in action films, and 400 Bullets provides moderate thrills and solid fight work to showcase his skills.

Writer/Director Tom Paton (Black Site) here tells the tale of British soldier Noah Brandt (Andrew Lee Potts, The Crown, Primeval) as he tries to protect some guidance microchip macguffins from an elite team of commando traitors who’re trying to sell missiles to a middle eastern warlord for top dollar. Brandt barely escapes with his life and the guidance chips and he ends up stumbling upon Rana Rae (Ly), who’s essentially the only soldier manning a post at a remote base in the mountains. The minute Brandt stumbles upon this base, Rae’s fate is somewhat sealed, and the two of them must fight to their last bullet if they want to survive.

It’s a tried and true formula which has been repackaged hundreds of times before. But there’s a reason siege films or Die Hard scenarios or treasure hunt tales work over and over again. We want to watch movies like these because we want to imagine ourselves facing down life or death challenges and coming out victorious and heroic on the other side. 400 Bullets acquits itself admirably in the pantheon of siege films, but it doesn’t stand out from the pack in very many remarkable ways.

A few things that are worth singling out for praise are the performances and physical capabilities of the two leads already mentioned, as well as the film’s villain Bartlett (James Warren, The Gentlemen, King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword). Warren probably delivers the most delicious performance in the film and makes his presence known as a formidable screen talent. Bartlett doesn’t offer much dimensionality as a villain willing to shift loyalties on a dime if it’ll earn him a dollar, but Warren’s physicality and personality in the role are notable. Composer Max Sweiry appears to have collaborated with Paton on several films and I felt the music was quite cool and added value to the final product.

But I was in this for Jean-Paul Ly. And while I’ll keep following his career and checking out his stuff, 400 Bullets didn’t quite feel like a giant leap forward for him. I’d have loved to see him credited as fight choreographer, but it appears (at least based on credits) that his role was largely in front of the camera. He’s a compelling screen fighter but Rae never develops all that much as a character beyond vaguely fighting and standing up for “honor”. It’s actually effective, but never quite memorable. Ly’s recent collaboration with filmmaker Ross Peacock on the contextless brutal fight to the death short action film Acéré is actually a more compelling showcase for Ly’s work than 400 Bullets.

Action fans and Jean-Paul Ly enthusiasts will find plenty to enjoy in 400 Bullets. It holds the viewers hand and leads them through a meat and potatoes military siege film with few surprises but also strong work all around before and behind the camera. There are dozens of better siege films out there, but also dozens worse.

And I’m Out.

400 Bullets hits Blu-ray/DVD, Digital and On Demand March 2nd, 2021 from Shout! Studios

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