Special-ops honchos choreograph one meticulous caper after another to find a kidnapped arms dealer in this boisterous thriller.
In an age when even the CIA gets its budget cut, ex-agent Michael Stark has found a niche as a private contractor taking on the clandestine jobs the Company would rather not dirty its hand with. He gets the call when Georgi “Big G” Papadopoulos, the world’s leading shadowy arms dealer, gets abducted; the CIA wants him rescued lest some even worse shadowy arms dealer slither onto his throne. Stark is a slightly Bogartian character, comfortable in dives and ready with a wisecrack, but he’s also got a MacGyver-esque flair for improvised bombs and an A-Team of paramilitary professionals, including a gorgeous communications specialist, a huge ex-Navy Seal and an even huger ex-Marine marksman. They’re pitted against a colorful rogue’s gallery featuring a fanatical Taliban commando and a 400-pound arch-villain who runs the island of Aruba from his steel-and-concrete bunker (think Sidney Greenstreet crossed with Marlon Brando’s Colonel Kurtz). The action pinballs from Athens to the Aegean Islands to the Caribbean as Stark and his posse hunt for Big G, assisted by his beautiful daughter Elena, while the vic himself hatches improbable maneuvers against his captors. Poulos serves up lots of detailed procedural, much of it ingenious, with minute-by-minute planning, reams of weapons specs and some nifty new torture techniques. Alas, he doesn’t give his villains a sporting chance; they are so comprehensively outclassed by Stark’s team that the disparity drains some of the suspense out of their confrontations. The story also suffers from third-act problems as it heads toward a climax that offers plenty of blood and thunder but not much rhyme or reason. Still, Poulos’ muscular, fast-paced prose and piquant characters add spice to the formula.
A one-sided but entertaining, inventive actioner.