Synopsis: A team of mercenaries find themselves tricked into a deadly showdown with an old enemy —and racing the clock to stop a world-changing computer program from being triggered.
Stars: Bruce Willis, Jesse Metcalfe, Natalie Eva Marie, Lala Kent, Sergio Rizzuto, Tyler Jon Olson, Texas Battle, Swen Temmel
Director: Matt Eskandari
Running Length: 98 minutes
TMMM Score: (1/10)
Review: Over the past year, I seem to have found myself with a lot of Bruce Willis in my life. Reading Demi Moore’s insightful autobiography, I learned a bit more about their marriage and got a glimpse into life outside of the spotlight. I also happened to watch several episodes of Moonlighting, the mid ‘80s TV show that paired him with Cybill Shepherd and made him an overnight star. His move from television to move stardom was swift and, for my money, well-earned with a series of interesting films that showed some range – even if they weren’t always totally within his grasp. What came through more than anything was that he was willing to try and that effort was delivered with a defined, unmissable twinkle in the eye and loads of charisma.
Sadly, that sparkle Willis used to get him over the finish line for many years is gone and he’s now to be found in quickie action thrillers that feel far beneath him. Looking over his recent credits on IMDb reads like a list of titles considered but thrown out for the latest Call of Duty video game. Precious Cargo, First Kill, Air Strike, Acts of Violence, Extraction…all blandly blend together so you can’t tell one from the other; it doesn’t help Willis looks the same in each so he appears to be playing the same character. Reteaming with director Matt Eskandari for the third time in two years (their Trauma Center was released in 2019 and Survive the Night arrived in early 2020), Willis is in full-on glide mode which might be marginally OK if he was surround by a decent script, creative direction, and a supporting cast that picked up the slack. Instead, every element of Hard Kill takes the easy route to Dullsville and sputters out before it can even get that far.
Former combat soldier Derek Miller (Jesse Metcalfe) now works as a mercenary gun for hire, which is how tech magnate Donovan Chalmers (Willis, Split) finds him and enlists his protection. Apparently, Chalmers, with the assistance of his daughter Ava (Lala Kent, Spree), have created technology that is of vested interest to a terrorist called The Pardoner. The vaguely European-y villain is evidently someone Miller and his team are familiar with from past encounters and Chalmers doesn’t want it falling into his hands which is why he wants their expertise to take the extremist down. If Miller and his group of rugged professionals can fend off the radical and his goons from gaining access to a much-discussed security code that would activate the next-gen software meant to infiltrate precious security systems, it could mean the difference between peace and war.
In its journey to the screen, what sounds like a relatively straightforward actioner was, surprisingly, scripted by no less than four writers. There are some attempts to add personal hang-ups and dramatic complexities to give the characters some shading but the script isn’t sophisticated enough nor are the actors prepared to tackle the necessary ups and downs. It’s a remarkably poorly acted film from the top down, Willis often can’t even be bothered open his eyelids all the way, let alone to stand up, for many of his scenes. The main bad guy is played by Sergio Rizzuto and a quick Google search returns results that for a time he was best known for being on a 2017 episode of Love Connection as a “Secret Billionaire” – which should tell you all you need to know about his acting as the lame-o The Pardoner. Forgettable is the kindest way to describe the rest of the cast. Most look like they spent more time in the gym than doing anything acting-related that could have spruced up the dreary proceedings.
Cheaply made with most of the action taking place in a large warehouse that hosts an endless series of low impact, poorly staged gunfights as well as a number of melodramatic scenes to balance out the action, Hard Kill should be an easy hard pass for you. Even if you’re a fan of Willis I wouldn’t get too choked up about the actor and his selection of roles as of late, if you skip this one I’m sure you’ll have another similarly titled/themed one available in six months or so. Hopefully that one will have a little more style and energy.