“What if Predator, but with evil RoboCops instead of Predators?” is how I imagine the pitch to Battle Drone going. The film, which sees a mercenary team and a few CIA operatives dropped into Chernobyl only to find themselves hunted by “drones,” doesn’t have a terrible premise. And I suppose evil robots is the natural (or, in this case, artificial) step up from game hunters. The execution is terrible, sure, but it’s not the worst idea for a movie.
It opens surprisingly well, which only sets us up for disappointment later on. The opening credits sequence is stylish, has creative use of slow motion, and promises strong action scenes that the rest of the film can’t deliver. The mercenaries complete a mission lacking in consequence and then ship out for the next one. I’m not sure we ever really get a sense of their names; they have them, but good luck caring enough to remember. Government agents join them to “babysit,” then find out they’ve all been betrayed after the drones show up to wipe them all out. Why? It’s a tech demo. And it’s a way to get rid of the mercenaries who … are annoying for the government, I guess?
None of it matters. The characters have classes—sniper, heavy, hand-to-hand, etc.—the film references video games at least once, and it does often feel like watching someone play one. We’re rooting for the protagonists because they’re there, which is all the motivation we’re given. We learn almost nothing about them, but if you’re going into a movie called “Battle Drone” hoping to get well-developed characters, you’ve come to the wrong place. The true villains—the ones commanding the pilots to make the drones kill these people—are also hilariously over-the-top evil entities.
The crux of the movie involves the mercenaries and the CIA agents teaming up to “creatively” take out the various drones. So, we get pretty much non-stop action scenes after the shooting starts, but none of it is very good. You’ll have seen most of it before in better movies, and the good slow motion shots from the opening sequence become more frequent and annoying as the film goes on. They never get to Zack Snyder levels of overuse, but they’re pretty bad.
The drones look pretty good, which is a bit of a surprise. While the acting, dialogue, and cinematography scream “direct-to-video,” the effects are pretty decent. The acting is all over the place, but almost never good. The actors are given really poor, on-the-nose, simplistic lines to read; as if the filmmakers hoped to be able to make easy-to-translate subtitles for foreign markets. And it has the look and feel of a cheaply made production.
Battle Drone is a silly B-movie with lackluster action, terrible characters, awful dialogue, poor acting, and decent effects. It’ll only appeal to members of the audience who enjoy bad action movies. And there are people out there for whom “Predator with evil RoboCops, and also not good” makes for a worthwhile watch. It needed more self-awareness to work for me on that level. It has one great sequence early on and a whole lot of banality afterward. You have no reason to watch it over Predator or even Predators.
I’ll conclude on a fun fact: One of the actors, Oleg Taktarov, was also in Predators.
Conclusion: Battle Drone is a bad action movie.
Recommendation: Only watch Battle Drone if you like bad action movies that also take themselves seriously.