Before the final credits roll in “Man Down,” statistics are flashed on screen regarding the number of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans with PTSD or who commit suicide. They are sobering, alarming figures, and they deserve to be preceded by a better movie than this handsomely crafted and ambitious but heavy-handed hodgepodge of ideas and styles.
Director Dito Montiel (“Fighting”), working from a script co-written with Adam G. Simon, immediately throws the viewer into the confusing scrum of a few competing storylines. There’s Marine Gabriel Drummer (Shia LaBeouf) happy at home with his wife, Natalie (Kate Mara), and young son, Johnny (Charlie Shotwell) before shipping off. There’s Gabriel in the midst of a military operation in Afghanistan. There’s Gabriel being interrogated by a senior commander (Gary Oldman) for an “incident.” And there’s Gabriel, along with his best combat buddy, Devin (Jai Courtney), running through the hellscape that is a post-apocalyptic America on the hunt for his missing son.
How these timelines and genres connect — is this science fiction? psychological drama? war thriller? all of the above? — is meant to give “Man Down” a teasing tension, but it all plays out so laboriously that interest is drained long before all the dots are connected. And when the stories do fuse, everything is so obvious and not worth the time it takes to get there.
To his credit, a beefed-up LaBeouf throws himself into the role with fervor, and Clint Mansell’s score bears a haunting beauty. But none of it is enough to save “Man Down.”
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Kate Mara, Jai Courtney, Gary Oldman
Rating: R for some disturbing violence, strong language throughout
Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes
Theaters: Gateway, Tinseltown