If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to watch a movie about U.S. Marines replacing the protagonists in the beloved-but-brutal Grand Theft Auto video game franchise, look no further than “The Channel.”
“After their bank heist goes wrong, a desperate criminal, his out-of-control brother, and their motley crew of ex-marines must escape New Orleans and the determined FBI agent who pursues them,” reads the film’s official synopsis.
“Ex-Marines,” for the uninitiated, is about the most offensive thing one can label anyone who has donned the Eagle, Globe and Anchor. Including it in the film’s promotional materials is essentially a titanic red flag from the jump.
Written and directed by William Kaufman (”The Hit List,” “Daylight’s End”), the film ultimately leaves viewers asking, “Has anyone involved in this project ever met a Marine?”
The gist of the story is a band of cash-hungry Marines organizes a New Orleans bank heist that goes completely awry. The film’s two main characters, Jamie (Clayne Crawford) and Mic (Max Martini) are not only brothers in arms, they’re brothers in the familial sense as well.
In one scene, in order to presumably sell the audience on the authenticity of the Marine experience, Mic tells a story to the heist crew about a “haji” he saw “going to town on a f—n’ donkey” during a deployment to Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. The cringeworthy story cuts the tension for the nervous bank robbers as they adjust plate carriers, arm up, and carry out the crime.
But things don’t go according to plan.
As the robbers leave the bank, the FBI engages in an all-out guerilla-style shootout with the heist crew in what appears to be a residential neighborhood — collateral damage be damned.
Contrary to the military mantra of “No man left behind,” the brothers in fact do desert all of their fellow Marines and leave them for dead. Oh well.
Ultimately, though, that’s only one issue in a series of problems plaguing the film. It’s 95 head-scratching minutes of destructive romance, night vision flashbacks to combat in Afghanistan, FBI vendettas, gang wars and a Hallmark-level plot about a father’s love for his child. Oh, and everyone’s accents are all over the map — think Southie boys from “The Departed” — despite the film taking place in Louisiana.
And then there’s a nightmarish scene in which gang members expecting a cut of the heist money take the brothers hostage and threaten to dissolve their bodies with sulfuric acid. As their lives hang in the balance, we learn that for Mic, this lifestyle choice is all about dying a warrior, but for Jamie, the heist was to prove he’s a good husband and a reliable father to his sickly daughter. Awww.
On the upside, the gunfights are pretty fun, and it’ll certainly scratch an itch if you’re tingling for a heist film with gratuitous violence.
For all its gore, however, the movie ends happily on an island in the sun — everyone in white linen — with a lesson about what it means to be a good parent.
“The Channel” gets a limited release July 14, 2023.
Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digitial Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.