But perhaps the most baffling element of all is the superficial and retrograde way Morocco native Hajji depicts the Islamic terrorists in the film’s kidnapping plot. They are cartoonish in their villainy and overly simplistic in their demeanor and demands. One would think Hajji might be interested in presenting a more nuanced portrayal of the complexities that exist within the region; instead, he and co-screenwriters Sam Chouia and Lemore Syvan offer some title cards off the top about the significance of oil as well as a few cursory conversations between opportunistic American diplomats.
A pretty American woman is held captive for $10 million ransom. Only her badass husband, a decorated U.S. Marine captain, can save her—but he must confront his regrets and demons in the process. It’s a trite premise told in uninspired fashion, with dull, overlong tracking shots and an increasingly pushy score in place of actual drama.
The one thing that makes “Redemption Day” watchable on any level is the presence of Gary Dourdan as Brad Paxton. The longtime “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” actor gets a rare shot at a leading role, but his compelling screen persona is sadly in the service of a barely-there character. He broods and shows off his brawn, and gives you the sense that he’s trying to imbue the performance with the kind of depth that simply isn’t there on the page. This is his version of a late-career Liam Neeson action vehicle—or it would be, if it were any good.
We know Brad is tormented, though, from a lengthy flashback at the film’s start. A mission to protect the transport of medical supplies across the Syrian desert comes under attack, and goes horribly awry. The memory of this ambush haunts him and awakens him in the middle of the night, and the comfort of his loving wife, Kate (Serinda Swan), provides little solace. Neither do boxing workouts and tough-love chats with his dad, played by an underused Ernie Hudson.
But then Kate, an archaeologist, travels from New York to Morocco to investigate the discovery of an underground city—and promptly gets kidnapped within minutes of arriving at the dig site, supposedly for crossing into Algeria by accident. (First, she’s stuck with insipid lines like: “Thank you so much for the hospitality.”)