As the in-over-his-head nurse Paul, Anthony Mackie brings a quiet vulnerability and dignified affability to an underwritten role, doing his best to sell himself as a Metal Gear Solid-referencing, running-from-a-fight everyman despite his Marvel-ready physique. (After his gamer turn in Black Mirror's "Striking Vipers" earlier this year and his appearance in the dystopian parable IO, the actor is becoming something like an in-house Netflix player.) He's presented as a model citizen, buying coffee for a homeless ex-patient who hangs outside the hospital where he works, and an overworked but caring family man, encouraging his pregnant wife (Teyonah Parris) to relax while he finishes painting the mural on the wall of the nursery.
Introduced dodging gunfire and leaping out of a window to the hardcore blast of Black Flag's "Rise Above," one of the many jarringly pleasing needle-drops on the soundtrack, Frank Grillo gets to play the flashier part of Abe, a career-criminal with a gruff demeanor, a slick haircut, and a strong right hook. Abe ends up handcuffed to a bed in Paul's hospital after his own getaway driver brother Mateo (Christian Cooke) accidentally knocks him to the ground following Abe's theft of a highly coveted USB drive full of confidential dirt. In a hair-brained scheme to free his brother, Mateo kidnaps Paul's wife and demands that he free Abe. If this doesn't already sound convoluted, the script, adapted by writer Adam G. Simon and staying mostly true to the broader outline of the original, also adds a tough-as-nails cop played by Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden and a William Friedkin-loving cinephile gangster named Big D.
Grillo, who had a role in Marvel's Captain America: The Winter Soldier alongside Mackie but really came into his own as an action star with the bloody agitprop horror sequels The Purge: Anarchy and The Purge: Election Year, displays a sharp understanding of his own grizzled, macho screen persona here. Where his character in the French original was a quiet, determined assassin, Grillo's version is more of a wisecracking, ever-smirking hunk. Slugging his way through a soapy car wash brawl and grabbing the steering wheel during a car chase in a PT Cruiser, he excels at all the deliberately tweaked '80s action movie beats. He's good enough to make you wish he'd been equipped with funnier lines than the standard "shut up and don't be a pussy" banter he shares with Mackie as the fledgling buddies outrun their pursuers.