Stars: John Travolta, Christopher Meloni, Rebecca De Mornay, Amanda Schull, Sam Trammell, Doris Morgado, Luis Da Silva Jr., Patrick St. Esprit | Written by Yvan Gauthier, Paul Sloan | Directed by Chuck Russell
Anyone remember From Paris With Love? Director Pierre Morel followed up the 2008 Liam Neeson hit Taken with a similarly enjoyable, although less critically well received, action movie in 2010 which starred a shaven headed John Travolta as Charlie Wax. And while it was less successful and entertaining than Taken, From Paris With Love was still good fun.
So in theory then, given Travolta is – or at least was – capable of convincingly taking part in a action movie I had reasonable expectations for his latest film I Am Wrath. And then there’s the crew involved: directed by Chuck Russell whose past works include Eraser, The Mask, and The Blob; and starring Rebecca De Mornay and Christopher Meloni, I honestly thought I Am Wrath would be worth a look.
Things don’t start well: the credit sequence is an incredibly heavy handed gun crime news montage, and the opening scenes with De Mornay are similarly lacking in subtlety. We’re barely given enough time to establish who she is, before she’s clumsily knifed in a car park and Travolta’s revenge fuelled trajectory is set. Enough clues are dropped early on to leave the viewer in no doubt that this isn’t a random mugging, however, so when the film makes it’s five minute reveal during the final reel nobody is surprised. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
There’s zero emotional resonance to the car park scene – or any scene really – and it’s extremely difficult to really care what happens next, but maybe some Travolta bad-assery will ensue? Don’t get your hopes up.There’s a good 20 minutes of Travolta “mourning” before anything of note happens, although True Blood’s Sam Tremmell turns up playing a cop who’s so obvious dodgy it’s laughable.
According to IMDB – so it must be true – this was originally intended as a Nicolas Cage vehicle directed by William Friedkin. I can’t help but think that some quality Cage crazy eyes could have made this a much more watchable flick, but Travolta sleep walks through the entire picture. Including the “action”.
There’s some unintentional comedy at times, including a particularly hilarious scene where Travolta slams the door at point blank range in a gunman’s face, only for the gunman to then miss the three shots he fires. There’s also a magnificently over the top tattoo later in the film too. There’s also a lot of one sided buddy movie dialogue between Travolta and Chris Meloni as Travolta’s old mate. All of which seems totally out of place for a revenge movie, and their relationship is never really explained in any detail.
Meloni, I have to say, is one of the few good things about this movie. He gets a couple of decent fight scenes – Travolta just looks porky for the couple of moments he gets – and manages to quip amusingly too. I’d quite like to see Chris Meloni in a modern Trancers reboot playing Jack Deth after this. But even Meloni can’t save the film.
None of the set pieces have any flair or energy, and the whole thing feels like it was made for TV. I appreciate not everything can be John Wick, but they could have tried a little harder than it seems they did. There’s some iffy slow motion, and some overlaid SMS messaging imagery, which might be an attempt at infusing some style, or Man On Fire style energy, but it all feels extremely half arsed and cheap. Things culminate with a excruciating hospital scene during which Amanda Schull tries very hard to act while surrounded by what might as well be three hat stands.
As the credits rolled, I couldn’t help but wonder why anyone had bothered. There’s nothing of note in I Am Wrath, which might be a little unfair to Travolta’s hair piece, now I think about it. If you want a decent revenge movie there’s a wealth of material to draw from. Start with Death Wish and work from there…
You’re going to have to get pretty far down into the barrel before you get scrape I Am Wrath off the bottom.
I Am Wrath is released on DVD and Blu-ray on May 16th, courtesy of 101 Films.