Looks can be deceiving. Barely released (direct to DVD in Australia), and coming armed with a ridiculous 28 credited producers (and one ‘em is direct-to-DVD star Half Dollar), this 2011 Mike Gunther (best known as a stuntman) film looked like a flop. In actuality, it’s a flawed but entertaining film, with quite an impressive cast and a good sense of humour that helps one get over some of the more clichéd elements in the script by Mike Behrman (whose only previous credit of any note is as an actor in Troma’s “Femme Fontaine: Killer Babe for the C.I.A.”). After all, the idea of a crim hunting down another crim who betrayed him is hardly new. But throw in an hilarious black comedy scene with a cockney butcher and Bruce Willis doing a riff on his “Whole Nine Yards” character (only funny this time), and the quirks make the film more than it might otherwise have been. I do wish, however, that Willis was in more of the film, because as good as he is, ultimately the role seems too inconsequential and small for him. UFC legend Randy Couture, meanwhile, has a dead-set hysterical small turn as a not-so smart thug that I wish received more screen time. He’s better here than he was in “The Expendables”, that’s for sure.
The casting of Ryan Phillippe and 50 Cent is interesting, with the former playing the far more sinister of the two robbers, and 50 Cent as the ‘good’ bad guy. 50 Cent is no actor, but he doesn’t need to be so long as he’s smart enough to choose roles that suit him. This role definitely suits him, and Phillippe is definitely an underrated actor. Hell, the whole cast here worked fine for me, particularly Shaun Taub as the most polite killer you’re ever likely to find. Cute cameo by Antonio Esfandiari (Is that Phil Laak too?) as a poker player whose game gets broken up.
It’s not a great film by any stretch, in fact it seems like the kind of direct-to-DVD thing Half a Buck would make with Val Kilmer, only with better actors and a bit more polish. Actually, it’s probably 50 Cent’s best film to date. But that’s no great statement, and it certainly has its flaws, including a not very well-defined back-story involving the two main characters and James Remar as Phillippe’s dad. I also felt the religious bullshit reminded me too much of the morose Catholicism one gets in direct-to-DVD movies with Cuba Gooding Jr., though it’s only a minor annoyance.
Given that this is B material, I suppose I can understand why it wasn’t widely released, but that doesn’t make it a bad film. It’s a fun little B movie, especially if you like heist films or any of the actors. Hell, I enjoyed it more than the more high-profile “The Town”, perhaps because I had lower expectations here.