Tour of Duty (2015)    0 Stars

(aka: Painkillers)

Tour of Duty (2015)
Tour of Duty (2015)


Director: Peter Winther

Cast: Tahmoh Penikett, Lesley-Ann Brandt, Colm Feore

Synopsis: Led by Major John Cafferty, a squad of US soldiers are sent on a mission,deep into the mountainous regions of Afghanistan with orders to extract a mysterious top secret package.




As we watch hard-man Cafferty and his military unit engaging the enemy in the snow-capped hills of Afghanistan in Peter Winther’s Tour of Duty, we can only marvel at how they managed to keep the number of casualties down to three. It’s fair to say that these fighting men and women are about as capable as a bunch of accountants on a team-building paintball outing. They advance in a tight little bunch, which makes for a stirring image as the music swells, but which, in the real world, would allow the enemy to mow them down in seconds. Then their sniper plants himself in a spot which leaves his head clearly silhouetted against the skyline for even the most short-sighted Afghan to pick off at leisure. It’s this sort of shoddy detail that sends a chill of trepidation down the spine of any seasoned moviegoer but, to be fair to Tour of Duty (which, in the States, is known under the far more appropriate title of Painkillers), things do eventually improve enough for the movie to hit the giddy heights of mediocrity.

The surviving members of the unit awake to find themselves confined to some research facility under the care of Dr. Troutman (Colm Feore – The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Amazing Spider-Man 2), a man in a lab coat who smiles far too much to be up to any good. They have no memory of the events that brought them there, but Troutman informs them they were on a mission to retrieve a top secret package for the government. He also prescribes plenty of sleep to aid the restoration of the unit members’ memories, and issues them with some innocuous looking pills to speed the process along. Naturally, the pills are not what they seem, and neither is Troutman – and neither is the woman (Erica Durance) who visits Cafferty (the amusingly named Tahmoh Penikett – Man of Steel) claiming to be the wife he no longer remembers.

Although writer/director Peter Winther, who has found more success as a co-producer of blockbusters like Stargate and Independence Day, manages to add a few enjoyable twists to the far-fetched plot after a somewhat turgid start, for the most part, Tour of Duty straddles the border between poor and mediocre. In Penikett it has a leading man who lacks individuality, and the more accomplished Feore doesn’t have enough screen time to compensate, even though he does well with what he’s given.

Perhaps it’s unfair, though, to expect too much from a low-budget b-movie. It’s clear that Tour of Duty hasn’t set its sights too high, but at least it’s reasonably well-made and has a firm idea of the market it’s hoping to crack. It even has the nerve to brazenly set itself up for a sequel in the final scene, but outside of the route of diminishing VOD returns, it’s difficult to see Tour of Duty stirring up enough interest to justify a franchise. It’s an adequate time-filler for those in an undemanding mood, but nothing more.

(Reviewed 25th October 2015)

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