The 2nd follows Major Vic Davis (Ryan Phillippe), a former Green Beret who has walked away from his life in the military and trying to take care of his family. When he arrives to pick up his teenage son from school for a weekend to reconnect, Davis immediately senses that something is wrong when a group of suspicious strangers invade the campus. Led by the mysterious Driver (Casper Van Dien), the unknown visitors turn out to be a squad of Black Ops mercenaries hired to kidnap the daughter of a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Thrust into action, Davis must fight to rescue
Directed by Brian Skeba, The 2nd feels like it has the right ingredients to create something wild and fun yet it simply doesn’t deliver. Though it contains a few memorable set pieces, the film ultimately becomes a paint-by-numbers actioner that fails to excite. While the young cast seem interested in their storylines, few other cast members seem particularly engaged, especially Phillippe. While some actors (read Cage, Nicolas) have been able to transition freely between serious drama and ‘straight-to-video’ efforts, Phillippe simply doesn’t bring the same sort of energy when he’s involved in these types of projects and his apathy shows onscreen. (Although, admittedly, Van Dien does seem to be enjoying the opportunity to play the villain, even if there’s little for him to work with in the script.)
At its heart, The 2nd wants to prove the value of the Second Amendment (more widely known as the ‘right to bear arms’). However, the script is often so muddled that even that is hard to understand for the majority of the film. For such a complicated issue, one would hope that there was some earnest discussion from both sides at various points within the film. Instead, the extent of the conversation surrounding the 2nd amendment boils down solely to the argument that ‘you’d better be ready in case you’re caught in the revolution’. Youth are handed guns with barely any consequence. One teen survives the final battle due to their skills at fencing. And, of course, Davis kills without remorse. (In fact, at one point, when his son points out that his father has just murdered a man in front of him, Davis flippantly responds by stating that ‘He was going to kill you’ and immediately moves on.)
If there are reasons to consider the value of the right to bear arms in today’s culture, The 2nd simply isn’t interested in exploring them. Instead, Skeba’s film decides to show you the dangers of living a life unarmed in a world where no one can be trusted. This is a film which quite literally suggests that friends are foes and government conspiracies require average people to be prepared to engage. While that can work in some films (read Willis, Bruce), The 2nd uses this argument to recklessly create scenarios of paranoia and violence. Given last week’s shocking uprising at the Capitol Building, the release of The 2nd at this time feels particularly insensitive. (Admittedly, you can’t really fault the film itself for this sort of poor timing but this feels like the kind of film that everyone is just hoping goes away.)
There will be some who can revel in The 2nd for some relatively fun fight scenes and over the top acting. (For example, the fight in the gym and the final battle between Phillippe and Van Dien would be among the most noteworthy.) However, for most others, when it comes time to decide what to stream this evening, The 2nd should probably be last on the list.
The 2nd is available on PVOD and in select theatres on Tuesday, January 19, 2021.