Plot: As the North Korean threat intensifies, the United States is hesitant to take action and risk an all out, open conflict, but recent events have caused officials to rethink that passive approach. A missile site seems active and poised to launch devastating strikes, so it is decided to send in two Navy operatives to shut down the site, but that plan is nixed at the worst possible moment. The order to cancel the mission comes down after the soldiers have landed behind enemy lines, which means a rescue mission has to be rolled out to bring them home. This leads to two more operatives being sent in to head the rescue, but now the North Korean forces are on the hunt and have no intentions of allowing the invaders to leave alive. Can the soldiers manage to survive and escape North Korea, or will their presence spark a global conflict?
Entertainment Value: Although Behind Enemy Lines II is by no means a true sequel, there is a cool connection between this and the original movie. The first movie has David Keith in a prominent role, while this sequel features Keith David in a sizable role, a fun little thread, I think. This sequel doesn’t build off the original, but is content to retell the story with a few new wrinkles. This includes trying to offer a “torn from the headlines” narrative with accurate military details involved, but it winds up as dull filler whenever the movie turns the focus to those elements. I like the idea of exploring the politics and bravado of war room banter, but Behind Enemy Lines II fails to make it fun to watch and that’s a shame. In the original, Gene Hackman made it fun with his ham handed acting, but here no one seems invested enough to go over the top. The action scenes are decent, but they’re infrequent and take a backseat to the posturing of the military officials, which is the film’s weakest aspect. So while things pick up a little once the action kicks in, the movie quickly returns to the doldrums soon after it dies down. Not the worst movie in the genre I’ve seen, but not a good one.
The first Behind Enemy Lines was smart with its cast, letting Owen Wilson play to his strengths and unleashing Gene Hackman to feast on the script. That trend doesn’t continue with this sequel however, as despite some solid b list names on deck, the cast just doesn’t deliver. Nicholas Gonzalez is about as generic as an action hero can be, never able to keep our attention or make us care. He fumbles any serious moments and to be honest, isn’t believable when the action starts up. Keith David has the best turn of the supporting cast, but he isn’t given much to do in most cases. While Hackman enhanced the original with his enthusiastic, wild performance, the cast here remains dialed down and serious, which isn’t good, since the material is so bland. Perhaps some tuned up performances could have worked wonders here. The cast also includes Peter Coyote, Bruce McGill, Ben Cross, and Dennis Arndt. I admire the attempt to make a serious, tense political/action thriller, Behind Enemy Lines II never finds a good beat and winds up as a dull, forgettable movie.