Bruce Willis is firmly following a template in his latest direct-to-DVD/streaming credit. It’s the template set by the likes of Steven Seagal, John Cusack et al, where they appear for a short period of time in a movie, to lend it a bit of star billing for the shelves of Asda. Occasionally, as a bonus, they get asked to do something interesting.
You do actually get a reasonable amount of Bruce for your cash, but not a great deal of actual character. He’s cinema’s latest weary detective, unhappy with the world and downing a drink to help deal with delivering horrific news to relatives. He’s good value for this, bringing suitable amounts of Bruce Willis to the role, and crucially, it looks like he turned up for his few action moments too, rather than deferring to a stunt double.
The core story centres on three brothers: Roman (Ashton Holmes), Brendan (Shawn Ashmore) and Deklan (Cole Hauser). When we first meet Roman, he’s soon to be married, and at the urging of his fiancée Mia (Melissa Bolona), he goes with his chums to, er, a strip club. She, meanwhile, is going out drinking with her friends. Then they’ll come back together, get married, and live happily ever after.
Only it doesn’t quite go to plan. Mia’s night abruptly comes to an end, as human traffickers seize her. Deklan and Brendan thus draw on their military backgrounds to try and find her, intersected by occasional scenes of Bruce Willis getting annoyed with bureaucracy.
A few things in the film’s favour, then. Firstly, it’s economical, running to just north of 80 minutes, which feels about right. Furthermore, director Brett Donowho does a solid job here, putting noticeable effort into how he frames some of his key moments, and stretching what I’d presume to be a fairly tight budget. For a film too juggling quite a few narratives in its core story, he and screenwriter Nicolas Aaron Mezzanatto keep things clear.
Conversely, they also keep it really very simple. Willis isn’t the only face here without much of a character to back him up. Take antagonist Mike Epps, as Max Livingston. He’s got screen presence, but also, he’s a foe we’ve seen umpteen times before. Throw in that detecting proves very easy, and the action becomes pretty generic, and there’s not much that really sticks in the mind.
And yet, as fans of DTV action movies will know, there’s a liberation that comes with leaving cinema behind. No danger of PG-13 cuts here. And whilst that – in good ways and bad – often leaves Acts Of Violence feeling like it wants to go back home to the late 1980s, it is the reasonably enjoyable brain-light movie it suggests it is.
Acts Of Violence is available on demand from Friday, and on DVD from Monday.