‘Land of Bad’ Offers Everything You Crave in a Military Thriller

Russell Crowe steals the film as a grumpy drone pilot with a chip on his shoulder

Drone warfare changed how America goes to war and, to an extent, the way filmmakers bring combat scenes to life.

The bravura 2015 film “Eye in the Sky” explored the morality of pushing buttons to win battles (and potentially kill innocents in the process).

“Land of Bad” veers in a different direction. Hard.

The thriller follows a Delta Force mission depending on those “eyes in the sky” to lead the way. It’s gripping from start to finish, and some of the sharpest scenes come courtesy of a drone pilot seated in a Las Vegas command center half a world away.

Take a bow, Russell Crowe.

LAND OF BAD Official Trailer (2024) Russell Crowe

Liam Hemsworth stars as Kinney, a JTAC (Joint terminal attack controller) teamed with battle-tested soldiers to retrieve a CIA asset held in a terrorist compound.

The mission is fraught with danger. It’s just a four-man unit, not counting the proverbial eyes in the sky. The uncompromising landscapes of Jolo Island in the southwest Philippines offer their own perils.

Kinney is as green as they come, but he gets a crash course in survival when the mission goes south. He’s forced to scramble for safety, all the while communicating with “Reaper,” a grouchy drone pilot played by Crowe.

Reaper and his no-nonsense partner Nia (Chika Ikogwe) guide Kinney’s way, but there’s little they can do about surprise hostiles, RPGs and other threats on the ground.

Shot in Australia’s Gold Coast, “Land of Bad” brings a ferocious energy to standard-issue fight sequences. Shrewd editing helps, but director William Eubank’s eye for the unorthodox brings snap to gun battles and hand-to-hand fights alike.

Get him a “John Wick” sequel or spinoff gig, stat.

The screenplay, credited to Eubank and co-producer David Frigerio, packs plenty of laughs between the explosions. Reaper and Nia solidify their bond early in the film, and the former’s short fuse adds another source of tension to the story.

He doesn’t do well with authority, a trope enlivened by Crowe. 

There’s nothing woke about “Land of Bad,” nor do we endure any moral handwringing. That’s not to say the U.S. military is deified in any fashion. One character curses out the “alphabet” institutions (you know who they are) and arrogance is the order of the day with some higher-ups.

The action scenes are the main attraction, and the balance between realism and Hollywood razzle dazzle is darn near perfect.

So is Crowe, who brings so much to a role that forces him to emote from a seated position. A third-act wrinkle sends him out into the world, and he’s so colorful you wish HBO would make a series following him around in his day-to-day life.

Hemsworth’s awkward chemistry with his teammates (Milo Ventimiglia, Ricky Whittle and brother Luke Hemsworth) offers another satisfying layer.


Even in quieter moments, “Land of Bad” suggests the nuances of modern combat. How fast can a Hellfire missile reach its target? Can soldiers stay one step ahead of danger when the enemy’s position is fed into their earpieces?

Do we pay a price, morally or spiritually, for killing without getting our hands dirty?

The latter is suggested via a sequence involving a Muslim terrorist. It’s not a talking point, just an organic part of Kinney’s transformation.

There’s not a Rambo-like soldier in “Land of Bad.” These warriors bleed and make poor decisions. They don’t take down dozens of terrorists with one wave of their machine gun.

This is war, albeit Hollywood style. It’s also one of the year’s most welcome surprises given the modest marketing machine behind it.

HiT or Miss: “Land of Bad” serves up thrilling action, authentic military scenes and just enough Hollywood sizzle to make everything pop.


  1. “That’s not to say the U.S. military is deified in any fashion. One character curses out the “alphabet” institutions (you know who they are)”

    You say this like it’s a bad thing.

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