Obliterated review – this thriller is so bad you long for the villains to use the nuke
Nostalgia has the power to turn what was once considered worthless into something highly valued in the present. The 90s, known for its eroticism and action-packed films featuring heroes who effortlessly defeat hordes of enemies, is now viewed with fondness. This is evident in the upcoming remakes of popular shows and movies like Starsky and Hutch, Gladiators, and Matlock, which are counting on audiences’ nostalgia for the classic “good vs. evil” storyline. Comedy legends John Cleese, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Kelsey Grammer are also making a comeback with their earlier successful works, catering to fans who believe that modern jokes are too restricted due to the fear of being “cancelled” by progressive groups on TikTok. However, Obliterated seems to combine the worst aspects of this nostalgia, featuring one-dimensional characters and unamusing attempts at edgy humor.
The premise of this action-comedy is both ridiculous and intriguing. We are introduced to a team of highly trained American soldiers, CIA agents, and experts in cyber-security and demolition, all posing as guests at a Las Vegas pool party. Their mission is to prevent a Russian arms dealer from delivering a nuclear weapon to a terrorist intent on destroying Sin City. Despite initial success, the group’s celebration with alcohol, drugs, and sexual activities is interrupted by a call from the Pentagon revealing that the bomb they stopped was a decoy. Now, they must locate the real nuke, even though they are barely able to remain upright.
“Obliterated” hails from the creators of the popular Netflix show Cobra Kai, which is a continuation of the story from The Karate Kid. The series challenges our nostalgic view of the original film by making Johnny Lawrence, the teenage antagonist, the main character. He still harbors resentment for losing the pivotal match, which he claims was won by cheating by his rival Danny LaRusso. However, this show lacks significant introspection on who the true villains may be. There are brief moments where Nick Zano’s character, a patriotic Navy Seal, has his beliefs challenged by a Russian agent who reveals that Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” is actually a critical commentary on American exceptionalism. However, these moments are sparse and the majority of the show leans more towards promoting Maga-style rallies rather than offering satirical commentary like “Team America.”
The humor varies from references to male genitalia to references to drug use and then back to male genitalia again. However, the audience can only identify them as jokes based on the surrounding information. The writers heavily rely on the idea that the mere mention of human genitals and drug use is automatically funny. This can be an uncomfortable experience, as it feels like being trapped in an elevator with Jay from The Inbetweeners trying too hard to prove his attractiveness and toughness.
Women in this movie are often objectified in shower scenes that seem out of place. They also go on missions while wearing revealing string bikinis and are portrayed as needing a man to satisfy them. One character, Maya, is portrayed as a nerdy and sexually frustrated NSA agent who looks up to her leader, Ava, a tough and sexually charged CIA agent. Ava, in turn, gives orders to Angela, a Marine sniper who is shown as queer but is also tough and sexually charged.
Also queer is Navy Seal Trunk (the charming but squandered Terrence Terrell), but this is barely glanced at and, for the most part, seems to exist as a brief distraction from the show’s sole black team member being the well-endowed muscle. When he’s not dropping trou, he’s complaining about being hungry, punching faceless baddies in discombobulating fight sequences and yelling lines such as: “Smell my dick, motherfucker!”
The portrayal of racial stereotypes, objectification of women, and misunderstanding of recreational drug effects in Obliterated is not the most offensive aspect of the show. Its biggest flaw is its overly drawn-out approach, with each interrogation, car chase, and fight scene being excessively long. Despite having only six hours to stop the bomb, the core team somehow takes eight hour-long episodes to do so. The slow pace and repetitive nature of the show make it unbearable by the third hour, with detonating the bomb becoming a heroic act to end our suffering.
Although the characters may resemble and behave like traditional American heroes, turning an entertaining concept into something mundane is truly villainous.