A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
An opening shot in "The Boys Are Back" shows a boy balanced on the hood of an SUV that his father is driving on a beach. No, his father isn't drunk; he's simply a man whose idea of giving his son freedom comes recklessly close to endangerment. Surprisingly, the film considers him to be a good dad.
His name is Joe Warr (Clive Owen). He's a British sportswriter who moved to Australia to follow his second wife, Katy (Laura Fraser). After her sudden death, he becomes the single parent of Artie (Nicholas McAnulty), who is 6 and doesn't quite understand how his mom could die, although he acts out erratically. During Artie's earlier years, his dad, one of Australia's top sportswriters, was away frequently covering events or working on deadline. His mom provided a secure home. Joe is new to the day-after-day responsibility of fatherhood and running a household (how do rooms get themselves cleaned and straightened?)
Joe's belief is that kids need to be challenged, trusted and given as much freedom as possible. That may sound good in theory, but children also require structure and rules. They don't always want their parents screaming at them that they're going to break their necks, but on the other hand, it can be unsettling to have a dad who almost seems OK with neck-breaking.
I believe in the benefits of bringing up "free-range children" -- within reason. When I was a kid, we ran around the neighborhood and could be away from home all day without anyone calling the police -- just so we were home when the street lights went on. At the same time, we knew all the parents in the neighborhood had an eye on us through a window or from a porch chair, we knew there were rules, we knew we were loved and worried about.