• by Wes Singleton

Man Down, C-

Rated R, 92 minutes

There are a few scenes in the muddled new war drama "Man Down" when its lead actor, Shia Le Beouf's character appears to be extremely uninterested in visiting with his commander. You might drift off too during the sluggish effort that unevenly tries to balance the psychological and physical effects of war on its soldiers, in spite of a solid turn from Le Beouf.

When a U.S. Marine (Le Beouf) returns home from Afghanistan, he finds that the place he once called home is no better than the battlefields he fought on overseas. Accompanied by his best friend (Jai Courtney), he searches desperately for the whereabouts of his son and wife (Kate Mara). In their search, the two intercept a man carrying vital information about his family.

Directed by Dito Montiel ("A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints") with a screenplay by Adam G. Simon, "Man Down" could easily be called "Movie Down" as it feels as lifeless as someone laying on the ground. Simon's ambitious screenplay and Montiel's uneasy direction don't mix well, leaving some plot points baffling and incoherent, which is unfortunate since it wastes a decent, gritty performance from Le Beouf.

There are essentially two different movies here, one that explores the psychological effects of the war on a troubled soldier, and a cat-and-mouse/family dysfunction thriller. It works better as the former than the latter, with Le Beouf opening up to an Army psychologist (Gary Oldman) as he delves into his background. As soon as it begins to get into the lead character's pysche, it intercuts to the scenes of him searching for his family with his best friend (Courtney), which hampers the momentum and power of the film, especially in its last act.

Badly edited and directed, "Man Down" has some good intentions yet still tries to manipulate its audience in the end, feeling forced and joyless. It's an unsatisfying look at a subject that needs far better storytelling than what its filmmakers can give it here.

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