Tag Archives: F

HARD KILL

Producers: Randall Emmett, George Furla, Shaun Sanghani, Alex Eckert, Tim Sullivan and Mark Stewart   Director: Matt Eskandari   Screenplay: Joe Russo and Chris LaMont   Cast: Jesse Metcalfe, Bruce Willis, Natalie Eva Marie, Lala Kent, Texas Battle, Swen Temmel, Sergio Rizzuto, Tyler Jon Olson, Jacquie Nguyen and Jon Galanis   Distributor: Vertical Entertainment

Grade: F

Whatever gave moviemakers the idea that stuffing an action flick with endless gun battles in which small armies of brainless adversaries shoot away at one another with automatic weapons was remotely exciting or entertaining?  Yet that’s about all “Hard Kill” has to offer.  A conservative estimate might put the cost of all the blanks fired in the course of the running-time at fifty per-cent of the total budget—if it weren’t for the fact that a considerable sum must have been allocated to the salary paid Bruce Willis for appearing in it.

Note that the operative word is “appearing” rather than “acting,” since he really does none of the latter in his role as Donovan Chalmers, a tech mogul who was once a legendary soldier.  What passes for a plot kicks in when Derek Miller (Jesse Metcalfe, beefed up considerably since his days as a teen TV soap opera heartthrob and sporting a beard and full panoply of tattoos to look macho, though his thespian abilities have progressed very little), who now leads a gang of hotshots-for-hire composed of his old army squadron,  is approached by Chalmers’ aide Nick Fox (Texas Battle, if you can swallow that name)—who once saved his life in combat—to take on an assignment: Miller and his crew will protect the mogul as he inspects a deserted factory he’s considering buying for a new plant of some sort. 

Miller is suspicious that there’s more to the job than Fox is saying, but he owes the guy, and so persuades his team—beauteous hard-ass Sasha Zindel (Natalie Eva Marie), her reckless brother Harrison (Jon Galsanis), and gung-ho Dash Hawkins (Swen Temmel) —to take on the assignment.

Naturally it’s a set-up.  Once at the factory, Chalmers and Fox inform them of the truth.  The mogul’s estranged daughter Ava (Lala Kent), who’d been developing a revolutionary AI system called Project 725, has fallen in with a notorious terrorist called The Pardoner (Sergio Rizzuto), who aims to use the invention to destroy the world’s technological underpinnings so that humanity—or its survivors—will be forced to start anew with a clean slate.  (He’s an idealist of sorts, you see.)  But to pull off the plan he needs the code to start the program, which only the old man knows.  The crew at the factory is bait to draw the madman to attack in hope of exchanging Ava for the code—or something like that. 

What results is a prolonged stand-off between the two sides.  Ava has reconsidered her alliance with the terrorist, of course, and she and daddy overcome their former misunderstandings.  Miller has to face off against the Pardoner, whom he’s met before (their re-acquaintance naturally involves protracted hand-to-hand combat).  With one exception (Jacqie Nguyen as his tech-savvy henchwoman), The Pardoner’s black-clad crew prove extraordinarily inept, while Miller’s are crack shots.

The script’s premise is dumb from the get-go, and the writers manage to encumber it with virtually every hackneyed action-movie situation and line of dialogue imaginable.  The result is completely risible, especially because the acting is unremittingly leaden (with Kent especially amateurish and Rizzuto spouting ludicrous lines about establishing a “new world order” in a thin, squeaky voice) and the gun-battle choreography sloppy.  The drab setting credited to production designer Daniel Alan Baker and murky cinematography of Bryan Koss accentuate the bargain-basement quality of the enterprise, while Matt Eskandari’s lackadaisical direction and Rudi Cooper’s sluggish editing italicize its claustrophobic cheapness.  Rhyan D’Errico’s maddening score tries to infuse the proceedings with some energy but fails miserably.          

The title of this noisy, stupid, totally boring bomb should really be “Hard Watch”—unless you’re willing to treat its avalanche of clichés as an invitation to an unintentional laugh-fest.    

BRAHMS: THE BOY II

Producers: Matt Berenson, Tom Rosenberg, Gary Lucchesi, Eric Reid, Roy Lee, Jim Wedaa and Richard S. Wright   Director: William Brent Bell   Screenplay: Stacey Menear   Cast: Katie Holmes, Owain Yeoman, Christopher Convery, Ralph Ineson, Anjali Jay, Oliver Rice, Natalie Moon and Daphne Hoskins   Distributor: STXfilms

Grade:  F

This sequel to the 2016 horror movie looks good, with an elegant production design by John Willett and handsome cinematography by Karl Walter Lindenlaub.  Otherwise it has almost nothing to recommend it, despite the efforts of a game cast.

The first movie was about a murderous boy who hid for decades in the crawlspaces behind the walls of his family’s remote estate, apparently possessed by the power of a demonic doll.  It was incredibly silly; this on, which comes from the same writer and director, is even more laughable.

The picture begins with Liza (Katie Holmes) and her darling son Jude (Chistopher Convery) traumatized by home invaders while her husband Sean (Owain Yeoman) is away.  As a result Jude no longer speaks, conversing only through written messages, and with the approval of his therapist (Anjali Jay), the family moves to the guest house attached to the estate where the first film occurred, now an unoccupied ruin watched by a caretaker named Joseph (Ralph Ineson).

While walking the grounds with his parents, Jude uncovers the buried doll, now restored to pristine shape, and is immediately attached to it.  He takes it home, and they become bosom companions.  Though Sean is distinctly slow on the uptake, Liza quickly suspects that the doll , which tells Jude its name is Brahms, has a malign influence on her son, and bad things soon begin to occur. 

So what do the couple do?  Why, they invite over some relatives, including Jude’s young cousin, who begins taunting the boy about his attachment to the doll.  This, of course, is not a good idea, and before you can say croquet (a game whose implements play a considerable role in the latter stages of the movie), Liza and Jude are alone again as the others are off on a hospital run. 

But a dangerous visitor will show up with a bundle of exposition, explaining that Jude is but the latest in a string of boys that the doll has seduced generation after generation.  Before long the kid is back in the cellar of the estate, donning the porcelain mask of Brahms that the murderous hiding man had worn in the first movie and threatening his own mother, just as his possessed predecessors had menaced and killed theirs.  In this case, however, Sean is around to intervene with one of those trusty croquet mallets.

Even on its own ludicrous terms, “Brahms” doesn’t make a lick of sense; the makers’ goal is apparently to fashion a gender-altered version of the unaccountably successful “Annabelle” movies in the hope of starting a new franchise.  But although they tack on a perfunctory coda suggesting that Brahms isn’t done with Jude yet—quite a stretch considering that the malevolent creature, his hideous form revealed when the porcelain is shattered, has apparently been roasted in a furnace—it’s completely implausible that any further installments should be expected, since thanks to Bell’s tepid direction, “Brahms” is, quite simply, one of the dullest, most insipid horror movies of recent years.

Of course, these quickie flicks are very inexpensive to produce, and need only a decent opening weekend to break even, so anything is possible.  Brahms wrote four symphonies, after all, so we might be unlucky enough to get two more movies named after him.  You’d be wise to listen to his music instead.