Director: Brian A. Miller
Cast: Jason Patric, Bruce Willis, John Cusack, Jessica Lowndes, Curtis ‘50 CENT’ Jackson, Jung Ji-Hoon a.k.a Rain
RunTime: 1 hr 31 mins
Rating: NC-16 (Some Violence and Drug Use)
Released By: Shaw
Opening Day: 25 September 2014
Synopsis: JASON PATRIC (My Sister’s Keeper), BRUCE WILLIS (Red 2) and JESSICA LOWNDES (90210) lead a venerable group of veterans and newcomers in The Prince, an unrelenting action film that forces a retired crime boss back into the seedy underworld he’d left behind. For twenty years Paul Brennan (Patric), a retired New Orleans crime boss, has lived a quiet life off the grid, running an auto repair garage in remote Mississippi. When his teenage daughter goes missing, Paul is forced to return to the city and face his former enemies. With the help of his daughter’s friend Angela (Lowndes), Paul comes face to face with Omar (Willis), the city’s most powerful man whose family he mistakenly took out, in an explosive final standoff that may offer redemption for Paul’s past mistakes. Starring alongside Patric, Willis, and Lowndes in The Prince are JOHN CUSACK (2012), RAIN (Ninja Assassin), JOHNATHON SCHAECH (The Legend of Hercules) GIA MANTEGNA (The Frozen Ground), and CURTIS “50 CENT” JACKSON (Escape Plan).
You can’t blame every has-been action star of yesteryear from wanting their own ‘Taken’ franchise - after all, the concept is easy enough to replicate and the payoff, as evinced by what the two Luc Besson-produced films did for Liam Neeson’s career, potentially tremendous. Indeed, it’s no secret that ‘The Prince’ is yet another ‘Taken’ knockoff designed for star Jason Patric, what with its premise of an ex-military and retired assassin on the hunt for his daughter gone missing who is also suspected to have been involved in some bad company.
At first glance, it may seem as if this Brian A. Miller film could be a cut above the rest. Besides Patric, John Cusack stars as an old acquaintance with whom the former forms an alliance when he hotfoots to New Orleans. Bruce Willis is also billed, in a rare villainous turn as a mobster whom Patric is responsible for the death of his wife and daughter many years ago. And last but not least, Korean pop-star Rain is also in the movie with a minor role as Willis’ reliable henchman, called upon from time to time to do the latter’s dirty work. But don’t let the big-name stars fool you - this is ultimately no more than a generic, straight-to-video quality production that fails to rise above its B-movie trappings.
As is increasingly commonplace for many such cable-quality offerings, this one sends Patric’s widowed auto mechanic Paul to New Orleans in search of his college daughter Beth (Gia Mantegna). Paul gets some help from her friend Angela (Jessica Lowndes), a party chick who claims that Beth is deep into hard drugs and mixed up with the dealers who supply them. Despite the company, Paul is essentially a one-man show, and the dismally flat script by Andre Fabrizio and Jeremy Passmore tries its darnest to convince us that he was someone notable in the criminal underworld whom everyone feared. It also tries to convince us that Willis’ aging crime boss Omar is someone to be reckoned with.
Sadly, the film fails miserably on both counts. No matter that Patric is at least a decade younger than Neeson, Miller shortchanges the actor by filming the close combat action in close-ups that fail to convey how quick or lethal his character is with his moves - and no, we’ve seen too many such conveniences to be impressed by Patric’s apparent ability to shoot with the accuracy of a marksman. Nor, for that matter, does Willis come across as anything close to formidable - most of the time, the actor just looks worn and bored reading the lines off his script while thinking about when he can collect his paycheck.
On that note, we may as well add that the drug pusher whom Beth is caught up with is some guy called The Pharmacy, played by rapper Curtis ’50 Cents’ Jackson, whose appearance in the movie is no more than 50 seconds. The only credible villain here is Rain, who gets a mano-a-mano fight with Patric towards the end but is ultimately shortchanged by the action choreography which decides to let it come down to an utterly disappointing denouement - though we can’t quite blame whoever did it, since the slightly pudgy Patric was never any match for the toned and buffed Korean actor in the first place.
Though the star pedigree might make you assume otherwise, ‘The Prince’ is really a middling B-action thriller that tries to replicate the ‘Taken’ formula without any flair of its own. It hardly comes close for sure, and even on a visceral level, the shootouts and showdowns are just yawn-worthy. Cusack and Willis certainly deserve better, and even Patric, who desperately needs a career restart like a patient needs a defibrillator, could do better than slumming around in this absolutely unnecessary time-filler.
(Yet another ‘Taken’ copycat that tries to replicate its premise without imagination or flair, this star-driven thriller is strictly B-grade Direct-to-Video material)
Review by Gabriel Chong