ACTS OF VENGEANCE **
Directed by Isaac Florentine. Starring Antonio Banderas, Paz Vega, Karl Urban, Robert Forster, Johnathon Schaech. Bulgaria / USA 2017 83 mins Certificate : 15
Released by Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment on VOD on 23rd April 2018 and DVD / Blu-Ray on 7th May 2018
This low budget Bulgarian-shot / financed action movie continues Antonio Banderas’ run of straight-to-DVD / Netflix genre movies, though isn’t a patch on the earlier, spirited SECURITY and only marginally more bearable than the barrel-scraping banality of Liam Neeson’s TAKEN sequels. What modest entertainment value it does provide largely stems from Banderas’ effortless movie-star charisma – the guy is presumably holding out for some awards-garnering career revival sometime in his sixties.
ACTS OF VENGEANCE boasts an entirely functional script by Matt Venne, whose CV largely consists of forgotten sequels to barely remembered theatrical releases (WHITE NOISE: THE LIGHT, MIRRORS 2, FRIGHT NIGHT 2 – the latter being only the second rubbish sequel entitled FRIGHT NIGHT 2). It wastes no time in letting us bear witness to Banderas unleashing hell in a greasy spoon kitchen, before his voiceover explains how we got to this point. This narration proves an invasive element throughout, somewhat akin to one of those boring director’s commentaries in which one of your filmmaking idols offers a tedious exercise in “stating the obvious” over one of your favourite movies (Thanks, William Friedkin, for managing to make THE EXORCIST seem boring!)
Punctuated in a pretentious fashion by quotes from Marcus Aurelius, the movie stars the still very handsome Mr B as a motor mouthed defence lawyer who speaks 80,000 words a day and whose all-consuming profession results in him absence from milestones in his young daughter’s life. Said daughter and his wife are murdered off-camera, and cop Johnathon Schaech cares so little about the investigation that he’s busy texting someone else while discussing the unsolved event that ruined Banderas’ life. Embittered father in law Robert Forster uses the funeral to vent just how much he despises him, and Banderas’ hits the slippery road of addiction to both alcohol and cage-fighting, while wandering around a grimy part of town known for Russian Mafia activity and child prostitutes. Taking a vow of silence and training in martial arts, he sets out to erase those responsible for wiping out his family.
So lazy and cliché-ridden that you spend the whole film waiting for a training montage (it doesn’t disappoint), ACTS OF VENGEANCE has the generic look and interchangeable villains of many a cheap Eastern European-lensed action flick with an imported Hollywood star. A number of capable actors are entirely wasted in dull support roles, notably Paz Vega, Karl Urban and the excellent Forster. Attempts at profundity are creaky at best, and the inevitable Big Twist is guessable for anyone paying reasonably close attention. One for the Banderas completists.
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