J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Acts of Violence: Bruce Willis Fights Human Trafficking

Brace yourself, because from here on out, Bruce Willis will serve as the voice of reason. He is an honest Cleveland police detective specializing in human trafficking crimes. When Roman MacGregors’ fiancée is kidnapped by a gang of traffickers, Willis’s Det. James Avery cautions them not to take the law into their own hands, but they’re not really listening and he doesn’t really mean it anyway. The gang picked the wrong heavily-armed, military-trained family to mess with in Brett Donowho’s Acts of Violence (trailer here), which releases today on DVD and BluRay.

Mia practically grew up as part of the MacGregor family and now she is engaged to the youngest brother, Roman the paramedic. Middle brother Brandon is already married to Jessica, whereas eldest brother Deklan struggles with post-traumatic stress. Mia is the last sort of woman scummy Vince and Frank should consider grabbing (from her bachelorette party), because she will clearly be missed. In this case, the MacGregors are a particular dangerous pack of amateurs to rile up. In addition to their service revolvers, it seems the Army also let them keep flak jackets, assault rifles, and a bucket full of Semtex.

Basically, this is an eighties throwback vigilante action film. Of course, they have to take matters into their own hands—although it should be admitted old world-weary Avery and his partner, Det. Brooke Baker get pretty good results, no thanks to their sleazy and most likely corrupt captain. Still, screenwriter Nicolas Aaron Mezzanatto makes more concessions to reality than you might expect, as things get awfully messy and bloody for all concerned.

Cole Hauser is sufficiently rugged and hardnosed as Deklan, but frankly, it is hard to believe his two brothers, played by the considerably smaller and more nebbish Shawn Ashmore and Ashton Holmes have the wherewithal to keep up with him. Melissa Bolona shows more grit as the abducted Mia.

When it comes to carrying a picture, the Brothers MacGregor are somewhat charisma-challenged. However, Willis and Sophia Bush play off each other decently and each gives the film more grit and presence than it probably deserves. Perhaps they should have been more of the focus. As a saving grace, Mike Epps makes a reasonably flamboyant villain as the ruthless trafficking ring-leader, Max Livingston.

So, just like a good afterschool special, Acts of Violence (not to be confused with Isaac Florentine’s superior and more psychologically complex Acts of Vengeance) offers us plenty of timely enlightenment, such as human trafficking is bad and VA services should be more user-friendly. Still, it is satisfying in an old school kind of way to see the salty old copper eventually throw in with the rogue elements. Largely undistinguished but sometimes satisfying in a bonehead kind of way, Acts of Violence is now available on DVD.

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