Director: Brian A. Miller
Cast: Bruce Willis, Frank Grillo, Johnathon Schaech, Olivia Culpo
Runtime: 1 hr 29 mins
Released By: Shaw Organisation
Opening Day: 6 September 2018
Synopsis: This gritty, action-packed crime thriller pairs action legends Bruce Willis (Die Hard) and Frank Grillo (Captain America series) in a chilling tale of justice and revenge. After surviving a brutal bank robbery, Jacob (Grillo) teams with his ex-cop neighbor (Willis) to track down the ruthless thief and avenge the assault. Desperate for cash to help treat his diabetic daughter, Jacob plans to take advantage of the situation, but in doing so, puts his family in the crosshairs of a killer...
Halfway into the climactic shootout between bank manager Jacob (Frank Grillo) and criminal mastermind Gabriel (Jonathon Schaech) in a public park, Bruce Willis’ retired ex-cop James arrives on the scene and proceeds immediately into an ambulance where Jacob’s daughter (Natalie Sophie Butler) is being tended to by the paramedics after suffering a diabetic shock. “You have to go!” Jacob’s wife (Olivia Culpo) pleads with James, urging him to go help Jacob.
We couldn’t agree more – what on earth is James doing whispering words of reassurance to Jacob’s daughter when his skills would be better served helping Jacob out in the line of fire? In fact, we’d already had wanted to say that almost an hour ago, seeing as how Willis is pretty much confined within the walls of his living room for most of his scenes, ostensibly helping Jacob figure out just how to track down Gabriel after the latter had robbed the bank he managed and disrupted his career and sanity in the process. No one goes to see Bruce Willis in an action movie talk, even if he is playing a supporting role, but that is precisely what his involvement in ‘Reprisal’ consists.
Still, that would probably just be a gripe if this miserable excuse of a thriller were more exciting; instead, it is yet another embarrassment in director Brian A. Miller’s decidedly B-movie oeuvre, and his third one with Bruce Willis at that. At first, it does seem as if ‘Reprisal’ would be better than their previous two collaborations ‘The Prince’ and ‘Vice’, especially given the opening act that sees Gabriel execute the robbery by himself with precision, muscle and wit. Alas, the proceedings come to a thudding halt right after, as writer Bryce Hammons struggles to bring any sort of logical sequence to Jacob’s own investigation of the incident.
Oh yes, perhaps the most laughable scenes are that with Jacob and James standing around in the latter’s house trying to make sense of Gabriel’s methods and patterns in order to follow him to his next heist. Little in their disjointed dialogue – no thanks to Ryan Dufrene’s random edits – suggests how they could have identified where Gabriel’s hideout or his next target could be, but hey after some of the dumbest detective work we’ve seen on screen, Jacob magically narrows the search down to a couple of abandoned warehouses and proceeds to stake these out. But lo and behold, as if he were wearing some ankle bracelet that forbade him from going out, James stays back at the house to give Jacob the sort of common-sense advice you wouldn’t need a cop to deliver.
To add frustration to annoyance, Grillo is utterly wasted in a role which seems content to suppress his action-movie credentials. Not only is he only really part of the action in the final shootout, he avoids any sort of physical confrontation with Gabriel right up to that point. Why cast Grillo if all Jacob’s character proves to be is a devoted family man to his wife and daughter? Or for that matter, why cast Grillo and then have him crouching in the corner or on the ground? Ironically, Grillo is even more compelling as the baddie in Wu Jing’s ‘Wolf Warrior 2’ than he is here playing the hapless victim whose titular retaliation is calling the cops when Jacob next robs an armoured car.
As such similar low-budget movies often do, the action is largely confined to a couple of sequences, and there are three here which matter – the bank robbery, the aforementioned armoured car heist, and the gunfight at the end. These are respectably exciting by B-movie standards, but Miller himself undercuts these scenes with some restless camerawork that can get distracting, even dizzying, to watch. It is almost as if Miller isn’t confident that the action is engaging in and of itself, and has therefore decided to enhance the shots with a sense of verite by having the camera move about and around the figures in the scenes.
Like we said, having its biggest action star do little more than talk isn’t the movie’s only woes, and it is for these other reasons that ‘Reprisal’ remains a strictly routine direct-to-video title you shouldn’t be paying good money to see in the cinema. But equally, as much as we recognise that age is catching up to Willis, we’d hate to see him waste the goodwill of his fans away by simply cashing in the pay-check from these thankless supporting roles. As this film’s title suggests, there is only so much humiliation we’re willing to take before we’d respond in reprisal – that is, by simply sitting out his films, just as how he seems perfectly content to sit out the action here.
(Yet another of Bruce Willis' embarrassing direct-to-video titles, the poorly scripted and clumsily directed 'Reprisal' lets Willis sit out most of the action - and for that matter Frank Grillo too)
Review by Gabriel Chong