A small military outpost is caught in the middle of a battle of greed and national security in writer/director Tom Paton’s military thriller 400 Bullets. The film opens on a cold, wintery night in Afghanistan as black ops specialist Noah Brandt (Andrew Lee Potts) leads a band of mercenaries-for-hire to intercept and acquire four deadly accurate, and lethal missiles. The hired guns double-cross Brandt, as they have a side deal with some Afghan baddies.
After his partner is killed and fearing he’s next, Brandt escapes with the missile’s navigation pins (also known as the McGuffin). Now on the run, he stumbles upon a British outpost comprised of camouflage netting and connected shipping containers. The unit that occupies the outpost is miles away on maneuvers. Rana Rae (Jean-Paul Ly), a Gurkha soldier, is left to guard the outpost with zero support, spotty internet, and the titular 400 bullets.
Rae comes to the rescue of the injured man. It’s only a matter of time before Brandt’s hunters arrive at the outpost. Now, Brandt and Rae have to defend themselves from an onslaught of weapons dealers and black ops mercenaries with only 400 bullets, so every shot has to count.
400 Bullets is a low-budget action thriller. I need to say this upfront because it would be easy to dismiss the film because of its relatively small scale, no-frills production design, and lack of precise details of a standard military outpost. Sadly, this is where the big studios with deep pockets have the advantage over the small guy. But we’re not here for the accuracy. We’re here for kick-a*s violence.
“…defend themselves from an onslaught of weapons dealers and black ops mercenaries with only 400 bullets…”
Paton delivers a fast-paced thriller with military-grade weapons. The majority of the action is gunplay, but with the 400-bullet limitation, it also comes in the form of a cat-and-mouse chase, hand-to-hand combat, characters being either tortured or beaten to a bloody pulp. And the director makes it all exciting and fun.
While there’s a lot of cool action, it’s the Rae and Brandt characters that I liked the most. Andrew Lee Potts is your typical military badass, and though he is smart on the battlefield, he finds a way to take down a sizable squad of killers through a divide-and-conquer philosophy. Jean-Paul Ly as Rae is a different story. He’s a guard with minimal yet adequate skills and played like an everyman. He’s also an Asian who doesn’t know martial arts, which is a welcome break from the stereotype. Rae survives on his basic training and his desire to do the right thing while not compromising his morals, which are continuously tested.
Without spoiling how our pair overcomes insurmountable odds, I’ll just say that the protagonists are put literally through the bloody wringer. They are not the Hollywood action stars who survive through over-the-top action stunts and special effects. They are beaten, beaten, and beaten until they win or lose. Maybe the unbelievable part of the film is how they can recover from the abuse they experience. Also, the 400 bullet gimmick is not really counted. There still seems to be a lot of bullets flying, and it only counted when it got down to one last bullet.
400 Bullets is a fun action movie. Yes, it lacks the enormous million-dollar explosions and epic death-defying fight scenes that require massively unaffordable insurance coverage. But for its small-scale production, it still feels professionally produced and offers an exciting thrill ride for a weekend of popcorn and VOD cinema at home.
"…an exciting thrill ride..."