Jon Keeyes’ action-thriller Code Name Banshee brings to mind cheapo 1990s straight-to-video flicks, from the way it looks and sounds to its half-assed plot. It’s a shame, as there’s actually a modicum of potential here. Jaime King could have been a badass female (anti) hero. Antonio Banderas – El Mariachi himself, who once melted hearts and quickened pulses – could have been a formidable assassin. Neither seems to care all that much. So why should the audience?
The plot is as basic as it gets: after a redundant opening scene, assassin Banshee (King) shoots her way out of an elevator to discover that another assassin, Anthony Greene (Tommy Flanagan), has beaten her to their mutual target. However, Anthony is willing to give Banshee the credit and the cash if she hands over – you guessed it – another assassin, Caleb (Banderas). Caleb wronged Anthony in the past, and so now he seeks revenge. Banshee shoots her way out of the building and embarks on a mission to find Caleb, with whom she too shares a tumultuous past.
It doesn’t take her long to locate the man, as he’s in plain view, running a shitty little bar. She tells him of Anthony’s plans. “I am not gonna let him get away this time,” she tells Caleb. “Looks like I trained you well,” he responds. Boom – the two of them are now a murderous duo, or rather trio, as Caleb’s teenage daughter Hailey (Catherine Davis) is another sort-of assassin. (There are so many assassins in this film, you’d think we were watching Banderas’s 1995 flop Assassins.) Of course, complications arise, such as the betrayal on behalf of Banshee’s right-hand sidekick, and so on, until it all culminates in an inevitable shootout, with our heroes trapped in their own home.
“Caleb wronged Anthony in the past, and so now he seeks revenge.”
“No one sets out to make a bad movie,” goes the saying. It certainly feels like the filmmakers behind Code Name Banshee couldn’t give less of a f**k. The feature is haphazardly edited, with the shot-from-afar fight scenes particularly egregious, clearly revealing stunt doubles. Everything is immersed in murky browns and washed-out grays; the film is so devoid of color that it’s almost black-and-white. The by-the-numbers script by Matthew Rogers careens along, every so-called twist and turn predictable. No flair or creativity seems to have been applied to any of it.
King, in an unexpected change of pace, exudes a steely charm that’s muted by the film’s incompetence. Banderas manages to grasp onto some moments to shine but is way underused in what should have been a meaty role. Flanagan is the only one who seems to be having any fun, chewing on ham like there’s no tomorrow.
Perhaps the only way to approach Rogers’ risible dialogue is with a healthy dose of cynicism. “I’m the executioner, not the judge,” Banshee states when asked what her victim did to deserve such fate. “There’s more to life than just contract killing,” Caleb reminds Banshee, along with some other forgettable s**t, to which she responds: “I’m happy for your happiness.” “What was it like when you lost your parents?” Hailey wonders before an intense shootout.
Perhaps with a good polish, or more like a deep scrubbing, this could’ve been an unremarkable but decent way to spend 90 minutes. As it stands, file Code Name Banshee under “expendable,” or go watch The Expendables instead. At least that film purposefully resurrects 1990s icons and pays homage to action flicks of yore. Keeyes and Co couldn’t muster enough of a damn to even do that much.
"…King...exudes a steely charm"