With the success of John Wick, shoot ‘em ups are back. A well-choreographed, high body count, gun-toting film hits all the pleasure centers in our brains that make us love watching the stylized and elegant carnage. As a result, we get a lot of clones of the famed soon-to-be “quadrilogy” Keanu “gun-fu” flick. Sometimes knockoffs like Nobody land and are also incredibly fun action films that kick ass. Other times, we get Code Name Banshee.
Code Name Banshee begins with the titular character Banshee (Jaime King) being interrogated by her CIA handler. Turns out, her father and his partner Caleb (Antonio Banderas) also worked for the CIA and were transporting a high-value target when their convoy was attacked. Banshee is being interrogated because her father and Caleb have gone dark, which means, they are either dead, or switched sides. If they are alive, they are now branded traitors to their own country.
Five years later, it seems as though Banshee left the CIA and has since gone on her own to be a contract killer. Partnering with hacker Kronos (Aleksander Vayshelboym): a literal guy in the chair, she now is a freelance contractor, eager for her next payday, and without any judgment. While carrying out an action-packed guy-heavy assignment, she is blocked by Anthony Greene (Tommy Flanagan), who is once again just chomping on the scenery. Fans of Flanagan’s famous “shyte” line delivery will not be disappointed. Greene offers Banshee a proposition, give her the location of Caleb and he will pay her a $10 million bounty. Banshee politely declines by hailing multiple clips of bullets in another action sequence.
Having not seen Caleb for five years, Banshee decided it was time to revisit her past and try to figure out what happened to Caleb and her father, and she must find Caleb before Greene and his endless supply of foot soldiers find him first. In a rather comically bad way, she can figure out where Caleb is hiding, even though the CIA can’t seem to do so. When she meets up with Caleb, she’s pressing him on finding out what’s going on with her father (is he alive? Is he dead? Is he a traitor?), to which Caleb simply brushes off. Caleb also has been holding a secret from Banshee and the CIA, he’s got a daughter named Hailey (Catherine Davis).
Now, Greene and his army of cannon fodder have zeroed in on Banshee and Caleb in Caleb’s New Jersey getaway safe house and Caleb and Banshee must make a last stand which envelopes the third act. And what a third act it is! There’s so much bloody carnage (knife fights, bashing heads in with paperweights, endless double taps) that is fun to watch, no matter how ridiculous it is.
The action in Code Name Banshee for the most part is great. There is a little suspension of disbelief needed as you have to believe that actress Jaime King is able to engage in hand-to-hand combat with multiple husky ‘roided out assassins (often at the same time) and able to overpower them. In addition, Caleb’s daughter, who has no knowledge of her dad as a soldier for the CIA nor how to use guns for that matter, becomes an elite sniper when the plot requires it. However, much of the fight and action choreography is actually very well done and remains fun and tense. There is a cool knife fight between Banshee and a few henchmen as well as multiple gun-fu sequences that make up for the script.
And yes, the script does have some issues. Events introduced in the film from the first act, are not resolved by the third act. Hell, some things are just completely abandoned with no explanation. There are a few logic holes (even for a movie like Code Name Banshee) that don’t work, and dumb down the movie even further. While the action scenes are well-choreographed, director Jon Keeyes wants to mesh the fight sequence styles of John Wick, but have the camera aesthetic and flare shots of a Tony Scott film. Those two styles don’t successfully mesh here in Code Name Banshee. Perhaps with a tighter script, better editing, and a less stylistic look to the film, Code Name Banshee might be a stronger film. Unfortunately, it’s just a fun, silly shoot ‘em up.
Code Name Banshee is currently playing in select theaters and On Demand.