Never

Never Let Go (2015)

First published by Twitch (now known as Screen Anarchy)

Bereaved, pill-popping Lisa Brennan (Angela Dixon) is taking a much-needed holiday in an unnamed North African country when a gang of Eastern European men abducts her baby girl, not realising that the mother they have targeted comes with a special set of skills – and so Lisa gives chase with extreme prejudice, leaving bodies in her wake, while evading a local police force that doubts she even has a daughter.

Never Let Go takes the ripped-from-the-headlines parental anxieties raised by the 2007 disappearance of Madeleine McCann and plays them out like Flightplan (2005) in a medina quarter, or a gender-reversed take on Taken (2008). Its heroine wins over our sympathies with her maternal pertinacity, while simultaneously losing them with her habit of severely injuring, or even murdering, anybody who gets in her way (including a cab driver who has the audacity to want payment for the use of his car). Given all this genuinely shocking collateral damage, and Lisa’s connections to a Republican politician back home in New York, one might just about discern, in her righteously violent and vengeful hunt through an Arab setting, an allegory of the US’s clumsy post-9/11 adventurism abroad – although where exactly this will get you is anyone’s guess.

Howard J. Ford’s previous writing-and-directing collaborations with his brother Jon – The Dead (2010) and The Dead 2: India (2013) – both featured white male protagonists who, though out of their depth in beautifully shot ‘exotic’ locations, still manage to teach the swarthy locals a lesson or two in undiplomatic ass-kicking. This, Howard’s first solo outing, follows a similar formula while switching sexes. Consequently, Lisa’s foreign incursions still come with an uncomfortably colonialist feel, but also represent a new assault on local (as well, it turns out, as American) patriarchy. Here, as with a Rambo sequel, the text is clear while the subtext (on race, gender and geopolitics) remains murky and misconceived. The action, however, is very well done.

© Anton Bitel