The director John Stockwell displayed a light comic touch at times in “Kickboxer: Vengeance” that almost surmounted that 2016 movie’s wheezy martial-arts genre conventions. Regrettably, his “Armed Response,” a low-budget, high-tech action film with supernatural overtones, is devoid of such a sense of play.
A former penitentiary now used for interrogating terrorists and war criminals has been attacked by an unknown force, and all its support personnel wiped out. Now a Special Forces squad leader (a musclebound but curiously muted Wesley Snipes) reunites his old crew to enter the compound and crack the mystery. Among his team members are a hothead (the wrestling superstar Seth Rollins); a meek software expert (Morgan Roberts); another computer wizard, with a troubled past (Dave Annable); and a squandered Anne Heche.
Off they wander through the complex, with flashlights in dark corridors, checking cells and sensory-deprivation tanks, finding corpses and discovering that this antiseptic labyrinth — called the Temple — is itself a sentient entity with murder on its mind. As they discover the fate of the Temple’s previous occupants, they in turn are, of course, picked off one by one. The squad’s history in Afghanistan, and complicity in abuses there, plays a part.
The possibilities are intriguing, but the characters are underdrawn, and the pacing lags. (Endless time is spent looking at monitors.) There is a “final girl” of sorts — in horror movies, the perennial remaining woman confronting the antagonist — but we hardly know her. Most egregiously, “Armed Response,” whose producers include Mr. Snipes and Gene Simmons of Kiss, offers underwhelming gunplay and fisticuffs. And that prompts an indifferent response.