The Beach House (2020) | SHUDDER
Any good action movie has fun stakes that ramp up tension. Any great action movie stirs up adrenaline and keeps it kicking long after the end credits roll, tempting you to revisit that rush again and again.
I was hoping for something like that here in Hard Kill. This latest action vehicle loosely starring Bruce Willis looked like it needed to be viewed with a huge grain of salt.
Any bad action movie will bore you to tears.
Sometimes, I hate being right.
For an action film built around teamwork, kidnapping, gunfights and tough talk, these staples in Hard Kill punch with the power of a water gun; they leave a small splash that is messy and annoying.
Matt Eskandari channels little energy into an already lifeless plot. I felt like I was in a hamster wheel watching this film, going nowhere fast waiting for something to spark.
The story of Hard Kill is bland, insufferable and boring. If there is a list chronicling tired action movie clichés, the filmmakers checked everything off twice.
A former service member, now gun-for-hire named Miller (Jesse Metcalfe) gets asked to protect a VIP played by Bruce Willis -- who looks bored out of his mind the entire film. “I read your record, you’re good, kid.” We then meet one of Miller’s old war buddies who is now working for Willis and is there to massage the deal. We get the familiar guilt-trip-before-I-ask-you-to-say-yes trope: “Remember, when I saved you back there.” Miller acquiesces. He will do the job. “If I do this, we do it my way.” He gets his team together who are hollowed-out stereotypes of veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They’re macho and cocky and have to be constantly asked by Miller to trust him. If this was the 1980s, they’d all be chain smoking and sharpening their knives. Their mission: protect Bruce Willis from the bad guys who need him to access a conventional world-ending tech that only Willis has the code for. Does this sound like familiar territory yet? Oh yeah, the bad guys have Willis’ daughter as a hostage. She's an MIT graduate responsible for developing said doom device. Her tech could wipe out financial records, disrupt the economy, yadda yadda.
The majority of this film is set in an abandoned factory, with an aesthetic as dull as the characters occupying it. The villain is the Pardoner (Sergio Rizzuto). He has an evil past, having literally shot Miller in the back a few years prior. He is deluded into saving the world by destroying it. He runs on pure self-righteousness and loves to yell at his employees. “Greed is the root of all pain, of all suffering, of all evil.” He’s not a terrorist; he’ll tell you himself. He has one strength: endless henchmen. As the beats drum on, Miller and crew get into firefights and fistfights with the enemy -- and among themselves -- before the obligatory final showdown. This story is painted by numbers, yielding no surprise or amazement.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Any villain worth their salt has a little bit of charisma. Or pizazz. Or snarky one-liners. The Pardoner has none of these things. He is an amalgamation of every forgettable bad guy in the history of action movies. Miller and his team share what I can best describe as cringy “GI Bro” talk. The dialogue is drenched in laughable jargon that is both hilarious and insulting to actual veterans (speaking as one myself). The characters act like they’re in cut scenes from a video game. Director Matt Eskandari has a few other Bruce Willis titles under his belt (Survive the Night and Trauma Center). Willis must enjoy working with this director, because he isn’t asked to do much here. The acting skill on display from everyone, to include Willis’ contribution, swings like a pendulum between melodramatic drek and shrilly overreaching.
...To Be Viewed With A Huge Grain Of Salt
Hard Kill (2020) | CINEMAS
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
There are some make-up achievements in Hard Kill that belong in the book of bad examples. One of Miller’s teammates gets herself wounded and the moulage applied looks fresh out of a Spirit Halloween store. There is a scene where a sniper shoots sporadically as Miller retreats into a building. Some of these shots look like a paintball weapon was fired off screen at the walls.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
I was tempted to give this part of the review a half-filled rating. There is a fun synthesizer melody played in the front and at the end of Hard Kill which I sort of enjoyed. However, those are the only two times we get treated to it. There is no other interesting musical accompaniment producing agency through the course of the film. A lot of the dialogue sounds like it was manufactured via ADR, causing a disrupting break in intensity of a scene, sucking the air out of the room.
Overall, Hard Kill isn’t going to win awards, prizes or acclaim. It certainly won’t be remembered by many. This was an assault on my senses, my patience and my interest. The lack of character development, a strong villain, sensible acting and a halfway exciting story kept me rolling my eyes and slumping my shoulders.
An action movie is a Ferrari in full throttle, a flock of motorcycles screaming exhaust, a tank plowing through villages. Hard Kill is not an action movie; it is a squeaky three-wheeled shopping cart, rusted and out of place.
If mindless (and I stress mindless) action movies with contrived, overused plot devices are your cup of tea, you’ve hit cinematic pay dirt.