Mel Gibson Invades Central America in ’80s Throwback ‘Panama’

Mel Gibson Panama
Mel Gibson stars as a CIA operative in the 1980s-set thriller "Panama." (Saban Films)

In "Panama," Mel Gibson plays Stark, a CIA operative who recruits James Becker, a Marine veteran played by Cole Hauser, to take on a top-secret arms mission to Panama in 1989, just before the U.S. invasion and the overthrow of Gen. Manuel Noriega.

If you're too young to remember that brief war, let's explain. Noriega was a longtime ally of the United States in Central America because of his opposition to Communist governments in the region, but his star began to fall in intelligence circles after the CIA figured he was trading secrets with our enemies.

There was also drug trafficking and money laundering. After a rigged election in 1989, the U.S. decided that Noriega had to go. American forces invaded Panama and blasted loud metal music by Black Sabbath and Guns N' Roses to wear down the dictator's resistance.

"Panama" covers the days leading up to that invasion. The movie will be released in theaters and VOD on March 18, 2022. Check out the trailer below.


"Let me tell you. There's nothing more rock and roll than taking out the bad guys for the red, white and blue," Stark announces at the beginning of the trailer. That's exactly the kind of hopelessly square bravado you'd expect from a CIA operative during the Reagan years, but Gibson redeems the character over the next couple of minutes with some outstanding tradecraft and old-school action movie zingers.

After his Oscar nomination for directing the World War II drama "Hacksaw Ridge," Gibson is beginning to get his acting career back on track. He recently starred as a badass Santa Claus in the Christmas action movie "Fatman" and will have a lead role in the upcoming John Wick spinoff television series, "The Continental," set to air on the STARZ streaming service.

Hauser plays Rip Wheeler on the cable hit "Yellowstone" and previously appeared in the movies "Olympus Has Fallen," "Dazed and Confused," "Hart's War" and "2 Fast 2 Furious." "Panama" also stars Charlie Weber, best known for the television series "How to Get Away with Murder."

The movie was directed by Mark Neveldine, the incredibly creative force who co-directed the Jason Statham classics "Crank" and "Crank: High Voltage" with former partner Brian Taylor. The team split up after "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance," the Marvel movie starring Nicolas Cage, and, aside from the little-seen horror flick "The Vatican Tapes" in 2015, "Panama" will be Neveldine's first movie in a decade.

Considering that the "John Wick" series and such other classic action movies like "Nobody" and "Atomic Blonde" owe so much to the inspiration of "Crank," it's weird that it's taken so long for us to see another movie from Neveldine. His former partner, Taylor, has gone on to create the television series "Happy!" with Patton Oswalt and the Peacock series "Brave New World," based on the classic novel by Aldous Huxley. Let's hope "Panama" is good enough to be the movie that puts Neveldine back to work.

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