If you find yourself watching this movie and think to yourself, “Gee, this seems a lot like John Wick, but this guy’s got a family”, you’re not wrong. It’s written by Derek Kolstad, the same guy who’s been writing all the screenplays for the John Wick movies! So, yeah, there’s that.
Another pandemic-delayed movie that was supposed to be released last year, this film deals with a mild-mannered family man named Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk). Residing in Suburbia, USA, Hutch lives a boring, day-to-day life working as an accountant in a machine shop, while both his real estate wife Becca (Connie Nielsen) and his teenage son Blake (Gage Munroe) are absentee family members. At least his little girl, Sammy (Paisley Cadorath, making her screen debut), loves him. After a home invasion one night, however, something snaps in Hutch. The thieves stole Sammy’s Kitty Kat bracelet! Those bastards!
Hutch goes into full tracking mode and finds the thieves, but things go bad afterward when Hutch takes out five drunk Russian playboys on a bus. Oooo! Bad move there, Hutch! One of them was the brother of Yulian Kuznetsov (Aleksei Serebryakov), a lethal Russian drug lord (and karaoke lover) who babysits over an Obschak, a gigantic treasure-trove of mob cash. Naturally, Yulian wants revenge and sends his goons after Hutch, but we soon learn, through little interrupted speeches (a running gag), that this family man is much more than he would appear to be. Hutch fights dirty, is unkillable, has a questionable past, and communicates with an ex-partner (RZA) through an old radio transmitter.
As the body count increases, Hutch takes the fight to Yulian and then the fun really begins! Hutch, his ex-partner, and his elderly ex-FBI father (Christopher Lloyd) face-off against Yulian and his army of heavily armed thugs at Hutch’s machine shop, which has been Home Alone booby-trapped! Yup, since Kolstad wrote this, you can see the obvious John Wick parallels in tone and plot, which is not a bad thing, since this movie is handled so well. We start with Odenkirk as the main protagonist; an everybody that kicks serious ass with viciousness and unrelenting cruelty, yet is tinged with lots of dark humor. HOW this guy stays alive is laughably amazing.
The other factor in this slam-bang whirlwind of blood, bullets, and ultra-violence is director Ilya Naishuller, who is best remembered for his ingenious (or ridiculous–you decide) Hardcore Henry, an entire movie that was filmed through the POV of the main hero! There’s no doubt about it, this guy directs like Guy Ritchie and Sam Raimi on crack. When there aren’t slam-edits, the camera slips and slides, showing off some impressive camera angles. And the fight scenes & shoot-outs are exceptionally nasty, brutal, cringe-inducing, and worthy of every dollar those stuntmen got!
And it’s the added touches that are fun and above par. Michael Ironside has a small but terrific role as the manager of the machine shop, and having Christopher Lloyd show up basting bad guys with a double-barrel shotgun and smiling the whole time is a sight to see! Also, like a Guy Ritchie movie, there’s lotsa great music from Frank Sinatra to Pat Benatar to set the mood, especially when Hutch is speeding away in a beautiful ’72 Dodge Challenger. If you love the John Wick franchise like me, you’re gonna love this, too!
**Now showing in theaters only, ’cause they’re (almost) all open now! Yaaay!
A History of Violence (2005)
Sure, there has been a plethora of movies about ordinary people protecting their families from bad guys (Straw Dogs, Trespass, Death Wish, Rolling Thunder, Peppermint, etc.) but here’s one that’s a little different and from brutally savage director, David Cronenberg.
Rural Millbrook, Indiana is one of those quiet little towns you never heard of, until you do. The local diner is run by super nice Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) who has a loving wife named Edie (Maria Bello). His teenage son Jack (Ashton Holmes) gets picked on alot at school by a nasty bully, Bobby Singer (Kyle Schmid), but things turn around when suddenly two thrill-kill serial murderers (Greg Bryk & Stephen McHattie) drive into town and try to rob Tom’s diner. In the blink of an eye, timid and peaceful Tom springs into action, taking out the two with their own guns! What the… ? How the… ?
Hailed a hero, Tom just wants to be left alone and go back to serving up coffee at his diner, but nope! In walks scar-faced mob boss Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris) from Philadelphia who quickly says that Tom isn’t Tom, but some lethal ex-gangster called Joey Cusack from Philly! Obviously a case of mistaken identity, Tom gets the bad guys to leave, but Carl and his goons ain’t going anywhere soon. They want revenge! In a surprise twist, not only does the meek and passive Jack beat the crap out of Bobby at school but Tom, going into full John Wick mode, takes out Carl’s goons to protect his family!
His ‘cover’ blown, Edie is beside herself in both shock, fear, and resentment over the man she thought she knew and passionately loved, not to mention the lives of their children are at risk. But Tom/Joey is gonna take of all of that when he goes to visit his estranged mob boss brother (William Hurt) to settle old scores. The ending? Well, that’s left up to the viewer to ponder and figure out. Based on the graphic novel by John Wager & Vince Locke, this thrilling screenplay was adapted by unknown Josh Olsen (Instinct to Kill, On the Border) who barely has any writing credits on IMDB. But it doesn’t matter as this script, aside from a few glaring plot holes, is excellent.
Director David Cronenberg (The Fly, Dead Ringers, Videodrome) is a master at his craft and he shows it off here in his usual style and that’s gratuitous sex and grisly violence. Never one to shy away from either, be prepared to witness love-making akin to soft porn and bloody faces getting viciously torn apart. But there’s also a great story here as well with Mortensen & Bello delivering dynamite performances as a loving couple that have reached a critical point. Holmes is also remarkable as the suffering intellectual kid that breaks under pressure, delivering some great lines. And then there’s Ed Harris who can play an evil bad guy in his sleep.
The story, like I said, is very much like your typical ‘revenge’ picture like all the others, but this one has a delicious twist and flavor that the others lack. It even starts out unlike any others, with a four-minute unbroken tracking shot of the thrill-killers leaving a motel that is about as creepy as it gets. At only 96 minutes, it doesn’t waste your time as other revenge-trope movies do, but gets right to the meat of the story. I like that!