Directed by Jesse Warren, this 2010 film is actually a feature length version of what was formerly a web series (16 episodes now strung together to run barely 90 minutes) created by Warren and star Mark Gantt. The good news is that I could easily see this working as a legit TV series. The bad news comes in two parts; 1) It’s not a TV series I’d watch, and 2) I review feature films, and as a feature film this...isn’t. Oh sure, it’s shot in the Tony Scott/“Smokin’ Aces” ‘hyper-slick’ style, but that’s just artifice. Meanwhile, it’s also not terribly entertaining, at least not to me. I will say that the seams don’t show the film’s web origins, but the material just isn’t cinematic. It’s TV material. Bland TV material. And yet, it’s not a TV show either, not in the usual definition of the term. Having said that, it would work better as a TV show than “Angel of Death” would have, I’ll give it that. And kudos to Warren and Gantt for being savvy enough to find another outlet for their project, even if that project wasn’t terribly interesting to me personally. I admire (at least in principle) their smarts for finding another way in.
If anything, it plays like a movie-length pilot episode for a TV series that never got picked up. So I guess it at least manages to avoid looking like a stitch-job. It’s not awful, it’s just not my kind of thing, and seriously lacking in anything to distinguish it from just about any other caper-ish TV show out there. Fans of “Leverage”, “Covert Affairs”, “The Glades”, “Burn Notice” might get more out of this than I did (those shows might be different but they all blend together for me), but I never got into it, despite some interesting faces in the cast (notably Marcil, Ironside, and Lerner).
I guess it’s kinda watchable and seamless, and certainly quick-paced, but bland overall. The main character played with a bit of roguish charm by Gantt (i.e. He’s not as wooden as the guy from “Burn Notice”) is a major issue. This character lacks any depth or quirks whatsoever. I never quite got who or what he was even meant to be. He just needed a little more definition. I mean, was he a thief? A con artist? I was never quite sure, except that his dad was a cop and his uncle a mobster. That’s not enough, especially given the film’s title references the main character. Maybe Gantt might prove enjoyable elsewhere, but here, he comes up a bit short. Weird, given he co-wrote it. When we come across an Asian female assassin chucking a stiletto into the back of a guy’s head like a shuriken, it had me wishing the whole thing was about her. Even Gantt’s associates lack any definition whatsoever. I got the feeling that if this actually were a TV series, we’d see these people weekly, and get to know them, but here, we barely get glimpses of them.
The film is also painfully lacking in the villain department. Not only do we get a trio of lame female assassins (somewhere between “Charlie’s Angels” and “Kill Bill”) that include Autumn Reeser as a fully clothed stripper/assassin named nicknamed Jail Bait (she even has sex fully-clothed!), but our lead villain, Ski Carr looks like Lou Bega. Yeah, the “Mambo #5” guy. Oh. So. Intimidating. I was expecting him to break out into song at any time. Or reveal his henchmen to be Snow and Icy Blu (A gold star to anyone who gets those references). Robert Forster, as the main character’s untrustworthy mobster uncle mightn’t be doing anything different than usual (he looks old and bored out of his mind, though), but he is the better villain of the two. Sometimes the standard Forster performance fits the bill, even if he’s a pretty lazy actor. Unfortunately, he isn’t in the film enough to make up the difference. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but for once, I wanted more Robert Forster. It’s a shame that Michael Ironside is cast as the main character’s hard-ass cop father, because there’s a guy who knows how to play an entertaining villain. He’s good here, but it’s an uninteresting role, and he would’ve been much better in the Forster or Carr roles. Mind you, I’m surprised Gantt constantly disappoints his dad. If your dad was a ‘Scanner’, would you want to disappoint him? I don’t want my brain sucked dry, Pops!
The film does have two bright spots in the cast, though. Vanessa Marcil might bring a TV-vibe to proceedings (well, she is a TV actress), and mightn’t be the most versatile actress, but she does her thing quite well here. I’ve always kinda liked her, and she’s hot, which always helps. The other standout is Michael Lerner, who absolutely walks off with the whole thing. In addition to still looking like Roger Ebert (ala “Godzilla”), he’s hilariously sleazy as a former Rabbi turned pervert mobster. Priceless stuff.
Overall, this is tolerable, but with central characters lacking definition and distinction, and a non-cinematic feel, this never really satisfies. At least it moves fast.