Paradise is deceptive in Jolo island, southwest Philippines. Hidden in countless acres of lush tropical vegetation, extinct volcanoes, and clear water runs a current of violence. Over the centuries, it has been a battleground countless times between opposing countries and religious groups, with many killed. This volatility is mirrored by the formation of the island, born from thousands of years of shifting tectonic plates. The jagged terrain makes for a difficult mission, regardless of experience. Where can you run to, where can you hide?
Jolo’s unforgiving landscape is an apt backdrop in Land Of Bad, a pounding combat thriller about the realities of modern warfare. Directed by William Eubank (writer-director of The Signal and director of Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin) and co-written and produced by Eubank and David Frigerio (writer-producer of The Signal, Crypto, and the upcoming The Beast in Me), Land Of Bad follows the difficulties and fellowship of a close-knit military operation.
Land Of Bad is a classic rescue film, action-packed and told with a cutting-edge, exciting, realistic perspective
“Land Of Bad was born out of the need to do something very … action based and full of excitement and very like, seat of your pants. Just go, go, go,” William Eubank says.
“I hope this bond again transcends the screen, helping to take the audience on a heartpounding, action-packed journey. While these characters and this film are imbued with realism, it is not based on a true story, allowing for creative license in terms of the plot. It was important to trace the emotional journey of Kinney, a young officer suddenly confronted with a situation that will change him. Land Of Bad follows a young soldier maturing into himself and his place in a team. By the end, he is a hardened soldier.”
A covert Special Forces operation in the South Philippines spirals into a brutal 48-hour battle for survival. When an elite extraction team is ambushed deep in enemy territory, rookie officer Kinney (Liam Hemsworth) is left outnumbered but determined to leave no man behind. With an air strike closing in, Kinney’s only hope hinges on the guidance of Air Force drone pilot Reaper (Russell Crowe), navigating unknowable danger where every move could be their last.
Despite not being based on a true story, realism was imperative for Eubank and Frigerio, granted access to Air Force training bases in the United States when refining their screenplay
“We started out going to Fort Irwin, which is a national training base in between Vegas and Los Angeles. I had a JTAC call me out of the blue when some press came out about this movie and I headed out there,”
“I think there’s a few reasons it’ll differ from other films, war films in particular. We are hitting thematically on a lot of things based on technology and where warfare is. And there’s a lot of things happening in today’s modern warfare, particularly in Russia and Ukraine with the use of drones. And so as technology progresses, we’re really digging into the themes of war and the barbaric nature of war and where it all started from to where it is now.”
“For this one, I think at the end of the day, you come to realize that it always comes down to one thing. You know, war does come down to one thing: it’s pretty brutal.”
Eubank seconds this by emphasizing his key influences of ‘last man standing’ movies, the high-stakes of which he wished to imbue in Land Of Bad.
“I love movies like Die Hard where a character is sort of singularly on the run and only has so many options and so many moves that they can pull off,” Eubank says. “So I love the idea with this movie, it’s like he doesn’t have weapons or anything, he just has one drone and a couple of like missiles and that’s it. And so he has to figure out when to use those things and the best way out of every situation.”
For Eubank, it was particularly important that the film was told from the perspective of Crowe’s character, not only heightening the tension of the situation, but also offering a thought-provoking contrast between the soldiers on the ground and back at base.
“I think Land Of Bad separates itself from other war films in the sense that it really is told from the point of view of a few operators … this film is really about boots on the ground. It’s really about the guys on the ground making certain choices and their interaction with each other,” Eubank says. “Hopefully it will be a unique perspective that a lot of people haven’t really gotten to see.”
“For this one, I think at the end of the day, you come to realize that it always comes down to one thing. You know, war does come down to one thing: it’s pretty brutal.
“Land Of Bad strives to take a look at the technology and then hopefully look at where the person is inside that technology but in an action-packed way … there’s been drone movies that really take a look at like the drone operator (Eddie Grim, played by Russell Crowe) and the personal toll that, you know, being a drone operator exerts over staring at the screen and being separated from the action but still in the action.”
“I think Land Of Bad sort of shows us a vision of where does the technology end and where does the human element start.
For Russell Crowe, this tension is central to his performance as Eddie Grim. “He (Grim) is not necessarily a natural member of this group … it’s one of those funny things, a relationship like this, because the man on the ground you might not ever meet … as a drone pilot, you’d be connected to an operative and for the most part you probably only know them by the particular call sign for that operation as well,” Crowe says.
“In our story, there’s an intimacy created between the operator on the ground and the drone pilot because of the things that are happening, you know, and there’s certainly part of something that goes wrong in the operation that the drone pilot feels a little bit responsible for. And so therefore, you know he’s gotta do whatever he can to keep the man on the ground safe and help him be successful in his mission.”
Eubank’s first feature film, Love, was commissioned by the alternative rock band, Angels & Airwaves. It became a breakout success, playing at numerous film festivals and ultimately winning the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s “Best of the Fest.” Eubank served as writer, director, cinematographer and production designer on the film. His second feature, The Signal, which he co-wrote premiered to great acclaim at Sundance 2014.
David Frigerio is a screenwriter, film producer based out of Manhattan Beach, California. He is also in post production on the police thriller, Muzzle. David co-wrote and was a consulting producer on the highly acclaimed, sci-fi thriller The Signal. He also produced Broke.