A number of critics will compare this movie to John Wick. My first thought was to compare it to Death Wish, but figured younger people wouldn’t know that film. Then I remembered…they remade Death Wish recently (Bruce Willis replacing Charles Bronson). Then I thought…you can compare this to so many things, because even the idea of having a woman in the kick-ass role has been done often. The disappointing Atomic Blonde is the first movie that comes to mind.
I overheard a boxer years ago talking about how ridiculous it is to have these women play these parts, because much larger men would beat them up easily. Now, sometimes that bothers me. For example, I couldn’t buy model/actress Alicia Vikander in the last Tomb Raider, in that part. Yet when Angelina Jolie (the original Tomb Raider) kicks butt in Salt, sure…she may only weigh 90 pounds, but…the Russians have been training her since she was a little kid, so I have no problem believing that she could do those things. The problem with believing Jennifer Garner in this part is…the film is too lazy to show us how she acquired these skills. (Although we know Garner learned them on the Alias tv series and playing Elektra in two Marvel movies.) She starts off selling Girl Scout cookies with her daughter, and after going to a carnival with her husband and kid (where she orders peppermint ice cream…insert eye roll here), they’re gunned down by a street gang. That is followed by the most idiotic scenes you may see in a movie this year. One has a guy just walk into her house, with an envelope filled with money, to tell her she doesn’t remember the killers. That same guy is their defense lawyer in court. And, a judge throws the case out of court, despite the fact that the mom has picked the three face-tattooed thugs out of various lineups. That’s because…he’s working with the Mexican gang. Yeah, it’s one of those movies where this gang seemingly pays off lots of people.
Side note, my wife leaned in and asked if people would be offended by the fact that it’s a Mexican gang. It’s a great point. This isn’t the ‘70s of Bronson when people didn’t care about those stereotypical things. Combine that with the fact that it’s another “white savior” character, yes…some will have problems with this premise.
Again, my bigger problem is…how does she go off the grid and become the ultimate killing machine? I’m guessing if most 35-year-old housewives go off somewhere to train, that’s not going to make them strong enough to just walk into a room and beat up these muscular thugs with machine guns. Despite how cool it might be to see pinatas exploding from gun fire, or hearing her break the arm of a guy that has tattoos all over his face.
Side note #2: a pinata warehouse? What, was a taco shop not available?
This movie was written by the guy that wrote the horrible London Has Fallen, and it’s such a bad script, I wondered why dialogue was even written. If you’re just going to have somebody come back all Punisher style and exact revenge, with little thought to anything making sense or being remotely realistic, why not just let the director (who gave us Taken) and cinematographer come up with the various ways the goons will be killed and how it will be shot.
The vigilante justice always gets crowds pumped, and that’s understandable. What’s going to surprise me is if this gets even a single good review. I found Eli Roth’s Death Wish to be a guilty pleasure, and it got the worst reviews. This film didn’t have a single scene I enjoyed watching. Well, there was one that was fun. After Riley North (Garner) sees a drunk guy on a bus with his sad son, she follows him into a liquor store. She bashes his head into the refrigerator, and as he falls, puts the gun into his mouth. She lectures him on his drinking and how he has to shape up and become a good father. I wanted to yell out, “Try doing that to Ben Affleck!”
Instead, we get to think of the real life Jennifer Garner, who came outside to plead with the paparazzi to leave her and her ex alone while she tries to get him into a car to go to rehab.
But back to the fictional story.
Riley is living in a van, in skid row (sounds like a Chris Farley bit), as she plots her revenge. We don’t see how she’s able to find out where all these people live and work (a judge, drug lord, etc.). We don’t see how she’s able to rob a bank, or break into a facility that has military grade weapons. We just see her storm out of her van, walk past vagrants with an angry look on her face, and shoot and punch people; yet they had no problem giving us a long, boring flashback of the last night of her family’s life.
The talents of John Gallagher Jr. (The Newsroom, 10 Cloverfield Lane) and John Ortiz are wasted. Also wasted are yet another fine use of duct tape on screen.
The plot is paper thin, the action formulaic, and the dialogue idiotic. This is the type of movie that is so bad that, even for people that see the commercials and think it looks like their type of film…will be disappointed. It’s in the running to make my 10 worst of the year list.