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film review

​Damson Idris as Harp in Outside the Wire.Jonathan Prime / Netflix/Netflix

  • Outside the Wire
  • Directed by Mikael Hafstrom
  • Written by Rowan Athale and Rob Yescombe
  • Starring Anthony Mackie, Damson Idris and Michael Kelly
  • Classification R; 114 minutes


2 out of 4 stars

For anyone hoping that the current shuttering of theatres might mark an end to the film industry’s habit of using January as a dumping ground, Netflix’s Outside the Wire is here to prove that the first month of the year retains its reputation as a no-go zone.

Mikael Hafstrom’s action film Outside the Wire is cheaply shot, poorly acted, and with a loose plot.Netflix

Arriving like a discarded Fox television pilot from 2010, director Mikael Hafstrom’s action film is forgettable from top to bottom. (Even its title evokes memories not of the movie itself but of two far superior cultural artifacts: HBO’s The Wire and Kanye West’s single Through the Wire.)

Cheaply shot, poorly acted, and with a plot that strip-mines everything from RoboCop to District 9 to Eye in the Sky to even the beyond-dumb jet-fighter-goes-rogue movie Stealth, Hafstrom’s feature might be fine background noise to fold your laundry to. But there is also a very real danger that the film’s sloppy plotting and watered down set-pieces might also make you so disoriented and frustrated that your socks will end up in mismatched little balls. Launderer emptor.

​Anthony Mackie ​as ​Leo and Idris as Harp, in Outside the Wire.Jonathan Prime / Netflix/Netflix

The year is 2039. Civil war has erupted in Eastern Europe. A ruthless warlord named Koval (Pilou Asbæk) is trying to get his hands on some nukes. And the only soldiers who can stop the madness are a young headstrong drone pilot named Harp (Damson Idris) and his hard-as-nails commanding officer Leo (Anthony Mackie). Oh, and Leo is a robot.

There is nothing more to Outside the Wire than the above summary, other than some truly muddy action – further depressed by a colour palette best described as “grey” – and exasperated character actor Michael Kelly looking sincerely depressed in his role as a U.S. Army higher-up. Even the usually charming Mackie, who has played enough duty-bound military types to file a patent, seems upset with the proceedings.

Perhaps with a few more million dollars’ worth of explosions and stunt work, and an entirely new script, Outside the Wire could have resembled an amusingly trashy early-year diversion. But landing in the cold, cruel days of January, 2021, we have more than enough trash to contend with already.

Outside the Wire is available to stream on Netflix starting Jan. 15

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