Walter Hill's first film in almost ten years as director doesn't see him in top form. It's more like he is just here to add a little extra grit and bone-crush to the action set pieces and fights. Those scenes are, for sure, the highlights of the movie. When Sylvester Stallone, the current mid 60 Human Growth Hormone Superstar back in cineplexes this week, is beating the crap out of someone it is brutal... that is, when you can see the choreography (which itself is decent and, in the climax, energetic) amid the clusterfuck of edits and dizzying shots. You can hear it as well, which perhaps helps Hill's viscera in here.
But the screenplay stinks. It's almost generous to give it high a rating as it is, though with material like this Stallone is able to bring a couple of guffaws and titters with his (though mostly mean) banter against his 'sidekick', his character being a brutal hitman next to a tough but law-abiding cop (Sung Kang). Clocking in at 91 minutes, including credits, there's not a surprise I could find with this one. The most I could see that Hill brought to the table in terms of filling up the screen with content was a) some good bluesy rock on the soundtrack (RL Burnside even pops up) and sets his story in New Orleans - excuse me, sorry, "Crescent City", of course, how could I mistake it with its creole and crawfish and ragtime street parades. and...
It's all here: the dead partner needing revenging, the boilerplate corrupt city of (most) cops and urban developers (seriously have they learned nothing from Lex Luthor in the Evil Real Estate Development thing?), and the Big Nasty Bad Guy. And while I don't think he's necessarily a 'good' actor, Jason Momoa does carry nasty screen presence, which is fine and serves the character to a point. Hell, so does Stallone, even with his weirdly chiseled body and his face full of botox and god-knows-what. But is this all worth it when, again, the script is just reheated crap from the early 90's that Hill back then might have turned down as being too close to, you know, 48 Hours and Another 48 Hours?
To be fair, he might have looked at this as a way of getting back into doing something honest-to-goodness down and gritty, a no-winking action movie (I will give it this, it's not the Expendables in terms of winking at its audience). But what else is there? I wanted the movie to give me something to work with, especially in the absence of a compelling sidekick - no, Sunk Kang is not it, not even close, and Joel SIlver's decision to drop Thomas Jane from the film was a grave mistake, all that's added to distinguish him from anyone else are a couple of Asian jokes from Sly - and villain who just has a basic snarl (Adabesi from Oz/Mr. Echo from Lost here with an odd physical impairment - why it's there, who cares). I was happy to see Christian Slater for a couple of minutes, perhaps he could have made a more interesting main villain. But instead he's relegated to being the closest thing to 'comic relief' as a stooge lawyer.
Maybe meatheads will eat this up. I was mildly entertained in small doses, bored in larger ones. I might be more forgiving if this was just by another hack-for-hire, or even moreso if it was a young director with something to prove. But I was already impressed last month, thanks to a director who DID have something to prove and did, Jee-Woon Kim, with his Schwarzenegger vehicle The Last Stand. That film didn't take itself seriously, but could still deliver a different, wild action movie amid the genericness. This is just the latter. Skip it for late night Cinemax viewing, maybe with a double with Tango & Cash... no, scratch that, Stallone/Russel beats this by far.