Militia (2000)

Dean Cain and Stacy Keach star in a straight to video action thriller directed by Jim Wynorski. Boulevard UK R0 DVD.

The Film

The ATF raid a remote compound run by a far right patriot group who are accused of firearms violations - they arrest leader William Fain but not without a gunfight and the death of his wife and son in an explosion. Two years later the group he founded has grown in power and is suspected of being behind the theft of military grade anthrax from a testing lab. Fain is released from prision to go undercover with ATF Agent Ethan Carter (Dean Cain) who was involved in the earlier raid - they are looking to get into the home of George Armstrong Montgomery (Stacy Keach) a rabble rouser who is suspected of possessing the anthrax, but Carter is unsure if he can really trust Fain and if he will escape notice...

Written by Steve Latshaw (U.S. Seals: Dead or Alive (2002)), Militia is a pretty straight forward thriller that never tries to do anything too drastic or original but manages to be enjoyable and boasts a few tense sequences. The script has the unassuming feel more of an episode from a television series than a stand-alone film and the storyline might have been devised with a teleplay in mind as there are a few excess scenes that do feel like padding and could easily have been trimmed to give the production a television friendly 50 minute runtime. Despite this the pacing is pretty good and there is sufficient characterisation to keep things interesting, even despite some glaring plot holes - apparently despite the careful planning of the mission, Carter had not thought out any sort of alternative identity or backstory as to why he was travelling with Fain.

The right wing domestic terrorists are an interesting time capsule of the era between the Communist affiliated guerilla and student groups of the 60s and 70s and the Islamic terrorist groups of the 21st Century. The script acknowledges that a lot of the preached diatribe might be supported by the viewers and makes an interesting point of distinguishing between the main character William Fain who has a traditional libertarian attitude (and against whom the ATF's raid is portrayed as being injust) and the group lead by Montgomery who are far more radical and therefore a legitimate target for the film's good guys.

Director Jim Wynorski (credited as Jay Andrews) is a veteran of low budget cinema and always manages to make the most of the funds available - the film as a whole is well shot, with some straight forward camera work and none of the gratuitous editing tricks used by most modern thrillers. The specially filmed action scenes are a typical DTV mix of gunfire and explosions, but to give the film more action for its buck, Wynorski brasenly culls action scene footage from a variety of other films, most audaciously the entire Cyberdyne plant sequence from Terminator II (1992) - presumably aware that most viewers will recognise the sequence, he even leaves in the establishing shot with the company name. The footage for this sequence is seamlessly edited in, a few later shots using footage from older films are a little more jarring - a fight in a helicopter using some very grainy stock shots from Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985) jumps noticably between the new and old footage.

Television Superman Dean Cain is top billed in the lead role and he plays well opposite Frederic Forrest (Apocalypse Now's 'Chef') who looks very believable as the militia leader. Veteran character actor Stacy Keach turns in other fine performance as the rabble-rousing Montgomery. Jennifer Beals ( The Book of Eli (2010)) is the female lead who is supposedly a rookie in the field, but the script never really lets her explore this aspect.

Militia is an unambitious straight to video thriller, the storyline is functional but nothing that has not been done before and the use of obvious stock footage in some of the action scenes does lessen their impact. Still the casting is good, pacing is solid and Wynorski's direction always gets the job done. Thriller fans who don't mind lower budget productions will find this worth a watch and there are certainly a lot worse films out there, but it is not worth specifically tracking down. Dean Cain fans should enjoy his plentiful screentime.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Dean Cain - star of the television series The New Adventures of Superman (1993-97)
Directed by anyone interesting? Jim Wynorski (as Jay Andrews) one of the great low budget American film makers, from actioners like Desert Thunder (1999) to softcore comedies like The Hills Have Thighs (2010)
Any gore or violence ? A few slightly bloody deaths
Any sex or nudity? None.
Who is it for? Fans of low budget thrillers and action films may enjoy this although it is pretty unremarkable.

Visuals Original aspect ratio - 1.33:1 academy. Colour
Picture quality is solid, always clear colours and good detail.
Shot for video premiere so the academy ratio is correct.
Audio English mono.
Subtitles None
Extras The disc includes:
  • Trailer
  • Brief text bios of the main cast
Region Region 0 (ALL) - PAL
Other regions? Available from Lions Gate in the US
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut. Titles and credits are in English.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 12th December 2014.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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