Friday 11 September 2020

"Hard Kill" (Guardian 11/09/20)

Hard Kill *
Dir: Matt Eskandari. With: Jesse Metcalfe, Bruce Willis, Lala Kent, Natalie Eva Marie. 98 mins. Cert: 15

Anyone hoping Bruce Willis might enjoy a career renaissance after his recent rediscovery in M. Night Shyamalan’s Split and Glass: lower those expectations now. Here’s Bruce back in his now-familiar 21st century guise of cheque-cashing frontman for tuppenny-ha’penny VOD fare, drafted in to deliver terse, pursed-lipped exposition before ceding the screen to no-names with slightly more give in their knees. All evidence would suggest he spent greater time than usual on this set, albeit much of that lassoed to a chair with an extravagant snood to keep him cosy. As ex-Marine turned embattled CEO Donovan Chalmers, the star is operating in that grey area between zero fuss and not much effort; it’s another of those “thanks Bruce, drop by payroll on your way out” contributions.

The main event is a nondescript shuffle around some hoary old clichés, strewn with abysmal dialogue and shot by someone who’s played a lot of first-person shoot-‘em-ups. It transpires Bruce’s technowhizz daughter (Lala Kent) has been kidnapped by international scourge The Pardoner (Sergio Rizzuto) – not the scariest nom de guerre, but like much else here, it’ll have to do – whose smash-the-system rhetoric, expressed in very boring, sub-Dr. Evil monologues, needs stomping out with privately sourced paramilitary force. The film’s stompers-in-chief are a buff platoon of kick-ass boys and girls led by erstwhile Desperate Housewives gardener Jesse Metcalfe, shrugging blandly through the kind of role (alcoholic combat veteran with a bad back) Willis himself might have enlivened in happier times.

This is almost certainly ascribing too much profundity to bashed-out, bare-bones, mind-numbingly basic content, but the whole does retain an oddly rueful, haunted quality: it’s there in everything from the makeshift, wintry light to the supporting cast’s eerie resemblance to more established, sadly unavailable faces. (Rizzuto looks like a market stall’s Bradley Cooper knock-off.) Most of all it’s present in the primary location, a hollowed-out factory somewhere in the wilds of Cincinnati. Look beyond the lifelessly choreographed shootouts and you keep catching glimpses of ghosts: those of American industry, yes, but also those of the American action movie, once manufactured with a skill, verve and wit wholly absent from these painfully long, finally deathly 98 minutes. 

Hard Kill is available to stream from today.

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