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Hard Kill

Reviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 08/25/20 16:07:43

"Once Upon A Time In Cincinnati"
1 stars (Sucks)

You know how a lot of uninspired action movies will end with a long sequence with all of the major character converging upon an empty warehouse—the good guys usually in possession of the McGuffin that the entire plot has been revolving around and the bad guys holding someone near and dear to the hero hostage in order to get their hands on said McGuffin—and fighting it out until the moment when the square-jawed hero dispatches the main villain in a gruesome manner, oftentimes accompanied by a pithy quip and immediately followed by the end credits? In a bold technical innovation that is sure to reverberate through the annals of cinema history (or not), “Hard Kill” takes that typical 15-minute-long conclusion and stretches it out into an entire 90-minute movie, complete with fleeting glimpses of a visibly bored Bruce Willis, who seems to have fit all of his scenes in during what must have be at most a two-day visit to the film’s Cincinnati location.

He plays Donovan Chalmers, a one-time super-soldier who has become the billionaire CEO of a tech company and whose daughter (Lala Kent) has just created a revolutionary AI program that will change the world. After receiving resistance from the board, she decides to test it in the field herself and it somehow winds up in the hands of the world’s most fearsome terrorist, The Pardoner (Sergio Rizzuto). Alas, to fully unleash its deadly potential, The Pardoner requires an override code that only Chalmers possesses, leading to him turning up at the aforementioned factory with loads of heavily armed minions in order to make the exchange. It turns out the Chalmers has decided to farm out the fighting to a mercenary squad led by Miller (Jesse Metcalfe) and wouldn’t you know it, Miller and The Pardoner (who not only takes his name from “The Canterbury Tales” but proceeds to terrorist-splain “The Pardoner’s Tale” at excruciating length) have some past bad blood between them that just might be settled once and for all before the mission is through.

I don’t want to say that “Hard Kill” is a dumb, lazy piece of action movie product that is so devoid of excitement, originality or anything resembling common sense that when it finally ended, I found myself almost wanting to apologize to the recent “Money Plane,” an idiotic movie to be sure but one that looks like “Die Hard”—okay, “Die Hard with a Vengeance”—when compared to this. There is not a single unique idea, situation or line of dialogue to be found in the screenplay from Chris LaMont and Joe Russo (not the Joe Russo you are thinking of, unless you are indeed thinking of the co-writer of “The Au Pair Nightmare”) and director Matt Eskandari handles the action beats in a manner that is plodding and perfunctory at best and downright clumsy at its worst. The cast, which includes a refugee from “Desperate Housewives” (Metcalfe), a wrestler (Natalie Eva Marie) and a reality show refugee (Kent), is as bland as can be and unable to navigate even the minute bits of characterization that they have been afforded.

In the end the only real question that anyone watching “Hard Kill” could possibly have is the most obvious one of all—what is Bruce Willis doing in a film that even Michael Dudikoff might rightly turn down due to script issues? Yes, he has done a lot of these films over the last couple of years, a couple of them with Eskander, but unless Eskander pulled a thorn out of his foot at some point, I cannot begin to fathom why. After all, he still has enough star presence to pull in the crowds (his last major film, “Glass,” may have been irretrievably stupid but it made a ton of money), he can’t possibly be getting paid that much and his general demeanor, especially in this case, is of a man who would rather be anywhere than this film. He literally spends most of the running time sitting things out and when he finally does leap (for lack of a more accurate term) into action at the finale, even his most ardent fans will find it to be way too little way too late. “Hard Kill” may not be the worst film that Willis has ever been connected, although if there is a worse one than this, I have forgotten it (and I presume that Willis has as well), but the real problem is that it is nothing more than a display of utter laziness and disdain from an actor who clearly doesn’t seem to give a shit anymore and doesn’t care who knows it.

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