By: Dominic McCafferty
Iranian-American director, Matt Eskandari’s new feature plays out almost algorithmically in its regurgitation of carbon-copied tropes of post-80s action; a predictable plot, flat dialogue, bland characters, none of which can be saved by the lacklustre performances of the cast, especially the absent (despite being on the front cover) Bruce Willis, who hardly makes an effort to disguise his disinterest in the project.
The story opens with a Bourne Identity-esque flashback/dream waking up the film’s protagonist, Derek Miller (Jesse Metcalfe) in a sweat. The scars seen on his back speak for themselves. The now battle wearied Miller and his team of mercenaries are tricked into ‘one last mission’, by ex-marine turned tech CEO, Donovan Chalmers (Bruce Willis) who’s MIT grad daughter (Lala Kent), has been taken captive by the destructive anarchist, The Pardoner (Sergio Rizzuto), using her as a ransom to get a hold of a code for Chalmers’ advanced Quantum AI system. From here, we are bombarded with a barrage of action sequences set within an abandoned warehouse, as generic a setting as one can get for an action movie.
In some ways, Hard Kill seems like it would be better suited as a 00’s video game or action cartoon, with the macho (but caring) man’s man seen in Derek Miller, fighting back against the wrath of a painfully shallow bad-guy. The same can be said for the dialogue, Miller’s taunt to an enemy – “Come out, come out, where ever you are…” – being one of many examples. There’s even a scene where one character tiptoes around miraculously oblivious guards in order to avoid detection.
Bruce Willis, ‘the star of the film’, rarely changes location throughout as the other characters are in a constant state of trudging through the enclaves of the dishevelled building. Though this, of course, a narrative choice, upon watching his performance, one can’t help but think the minimal changing of location would mean that he would have to come in fewer days for shooting, therefore, requiring less time on set – was this a choice by the only real star of a relatively small production? Who knows…Without being too cynical, it’s fair to say that Willis’ performance doesn’t scream passion, a notion which seeps into the viewing experience.
However, if you are looking to unwind with something devoid of all brain use, something to watch with friends drinking cold beers and looking for a good laugh, then Hard Kill could be for you, but a commendable action film, it is not.