Privatized paramilitaries go ballistic on Arab terrorists in this boisterous thriller.
When his wife is killed in a post-9/11 mall bombing, retired CIA special-ops officer Martin Dallas itches to rejoin the war on terror. He gets his chance when Vietnam buddy and wealthy industrialist Bill Carnahan recruits him to lead a private mission to take some old Soviet suitcase nuclear bombs off the black market. Free of the constraints of official American rules of engagement, Dallas and his international team of goodhearted mercenaries accomplish this task with maximum carnage, only to discover that three bombs have already been bought by Palestinian militants and are en route to targets in Israel and Texas. Carnahan reconfigures the mission, instructing Dallas to blow up Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque with an atomic micro-blast that will, he theorizes, intimidate the Islamists into giving up their terrorist ambitions. Impressed with this reasoning but full of misgivings, Dallas find himself in the most agonizing of clichÃ©d thriller conundrums: To defeat the terrorists, he must become one. His dilemma suggests that a muscle-bound but weak-willed American can only prevail by casting aside humanitarian niceties to torture, slaughter and, if necessary, nuke terrorists into submission. Unshackled from his insipid, thinly-drawn marriage, Dallas scarfs Twinkies and savors every weapons spec down to the details of their M-16 ammo. Otherwise, Pels has concocted an engrossing–if ponderous and often juvenile–adventure story. Though the narrative flags during volleys of stilted trash-talk between Dallas (â€œYou will soon scream like a woman and beg to tell me everything I wish to know”) and the terrorists (â€œKafir subhumanâ€¦I fear not”), the action set pieces justify the longueurs.
Dubious security strategizing aside, Pels serves up plenty of red meat for arm-chair commandos.