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ACTS OF VIOLENCE (2018) review

January 13, 2018



written by: Nicolas Aaron Mezzanatto
produced by: Anthony Callie, Randall Emmett, George Furla & Mark Stewart
directed by: Brett Donowho
rated: R (for violence, language throughout, sexuality/nudity and drug material)
runtime: 86 min.
U.S. release date: January 12, 2018 (theatrical/VOD)


Another year, another Bruce Willis debacle. Seriously, it’s getting ridiculous. When he started taking any old role that comes his way, I used to give him the benefit of the doubt, thinking here’s a guy who just wants to explore smaller stuff. It didn’t take me long to abandon that mindset. With this many crappy under-the-radar releases from the former movie star, his glory days are looking further and further away. Don’t be fooled though, his latest VOD offering from director Brett Donowho, “Acts of Violence” (not to be confused with “Acts of Vengeance” starring Antonio Banderas, which you didn’t see) isn’t really a “Bruce Willis movie”, considering he’s in it for an estimated total of fifteen minutes, but it is yet another offering in what could certainly be considered a “sleepwalking” period of his career.

The movie is set in Cleveland for no particular reason other than its cheaper to shoot there than any larger metropolitan city, plus there’s this “any city, anywhere” feel to it. The focus is on a trio of McGregor brothers, two of them, the eldest Deklan (Cole Hauser) and married Brandon (Shawn Ashmore) have both served overseas in the military and one who has not, Roman (Ashton Holmes), who is engaged to his childhood sweetheart, Mia (Melissa Bologna). On the eve of their wedding, Roman and Mia go out to their respective pre-marital parties and while partaking in bachelorette festivities at a club Mia winds up fending off a couple of scumbags, Vince (Sean Bronson) and Frank (Rotini), both of whom work for the local kingpin, Max Livingston (Mike Epps) and in response they wind up kidnapping Mia and serving her up as an offering to their boss, who specializes in human trafficking.




Meanwhile, local Detective James Avery (Willis) has been aware of Max Livingston’s criminal activities for some time and just hasn’t been able to connect any hard evidence to him, not to mention his hands are often tied by his superior, Hemlan (Patrick St. Esprit). But hey, he was able to drop one goon off a rooftop in the opening scene, so one point for law enforcement. Avery is somewhat disillusioned, but mostly just tired (at one point in the film, he literally says, “I’m tired of this”, which proves to be something viewers will relate to), yet not as frustrated as fellow Detective Brooke Baker (Sophia Bush, of “One Tree Hill” fame and currently on every “Chicago” show on NBC), who can’t seem to do anything without Avery. It’s a shame  since it’s one of three potentially prominent women in this movie, but alas they are either sidelined, murdered or abducted.

Roman learns of his fiancé’s abduction via voicemail, since she was leaving him a message upon her exit for the night, which is when the two goons took her. There’s some logic/common sense issues on display here, like it’s never a good idea to exit a club into an alley by yourself for a smoke or to scroll through your phone. Mia is definitely a fighter and far from a pushover, but she’s lacking street smarts here. Maybe it’s all the booze effecting her judgement.

It takes Deklan listening to the voicemail to determine that Mia’s been taken and that’s when a call to 9-11 takes place. Of course, when the police get involved we know this is going to lead them to Avery, since earlier in the movie we saw that he’s been sniffing out cases involving trafficking that could be tied to Epps. Sitting in Avery’s office, Deklan realizes that they will have to take the situation into their own weaponized hands. In no time, the brothers flip into task force mode, donning vests and weapons and using Mia’s GPS in her phone to track her down. Despite Avery’s warning against vigilantism, Deklan and his brothers pursue and mow down everyone involved in Mia’s abduction, alerting Max of their existence and inevitably getting them deeper into life-threatening situations.




The nicest thing I could say about “Acts of Violence” is that it had potential. It really did. There are potentially interesting characters and themes here, it’s just that screenwriter Nicolas Aaron Mezzanatto doesn’t do anything resembling original with them, nor does he really delve into one specific topic. Instead, we get a sampler platter of combat PTSD, sex trafficking and police beauracracy, with a smattering of misogyny. The cast isn’t straight up awful, but they never seem to rise above the lackluster screenplay and throughout much of the movie most of the actors could use some resuscitation (the smelling salts kind, not mouth-to-mouth). Hauser and Ashmore standout amongst the brothers, committing to an intensity and emotional resonance (respectively), but that’s about it.

In the thankless role of Mia, Bologna shows some fire and spunk, actually escaping at one point, but that’s about the extent of it. Towards the end, she joins her brothers as they defend themselves against more of Max’s gun-toting goons, almost trying for a “Fast and Furious” family vibe or maybe even taking a page from John Singleton’s “Four Brothers”, but like so much of “Acts of Violence” a familial bond is another aspect that’s not explored or developed enough.

One aspect of the film that Mezzanatto could’ve developed further is the childhood bond that these brothers and Mia have with each other. The movie opens with a sequence from the past, when they were being chased back to the McGregor house by neighborhood bullies. It concludes with all the McGregor’s beating up the bullies in a brutal takedown in the front yard and its quite a way to establish “Acts of Violence”. Unfortunately, we never get more of these interesting snippets from the past that could potentially inform us of the connection these characters have in the present. Another spark of violence that we see early on comes from a meeting Hauser’s Deklan has with a VA counselor, where his simmering rage searches for a release. More of these moments from Hauser (or Willis, for that matter), could’ve helped the movie.

Based on his choices lately, I don’t have much faith in Willis’ next theatrical release, which is Eli Roth’s “Death Wish”, an unnecessary remake which looks utterly tone-deaf and ill-timed based on the trailer released late last summer. It’ll just be an excuse for more bloody violence (not to mention a reunion for Willis and Epps), but the fact that it was pushed to March from its original release date back in November doesn’t bode well.

“Acts of Violence” doesn’t really say much about violence or the acts of it, but it could have – again, there’s potential. It’s the beginning of the year, so I’m using the word “potential” to be generous and offer some kind of light where there is none in these dreary and dour action thriller.




RATING: *1/2




4 Comments leave one →
  1. Jon Jones permalink
    April 23, 2018 9:23 am

    Acts of Violence…. ironically directed by Brett Donowho whom was arrested and charged with… Acts of Violence! Case Type: Felony – 3rd Degree Offense: Assault Fam/House Mem Impede Breath/Circulat Criminal Code 22.01(b)(2)(B) Arrest Disposition: Deferred Arrest Disposition Date: June 8, 2016 Court Description: County Court At Law No 4 Austin

  2. Angel McD permalink
    May 10, 2018 8:40 pm

    Acts of Violence…. ironically directed by Brett Donowho whom was arrested and charged with… Acts of Violence…. against his very own lovely wife, Angel! Case Type: Felony – 3rd Degree Offense: Assault Fam/House Mem Impede Breath/Circulat Criminal Code 22.01(b)(2)(B) Arrest Disposition: Deferred Arrest Disposition Date: June 8, 2016 Court Description: County Court At Law No 4 Austin
    Here’s Brett Donowho’s mugshot for beating his defenseless wife, Angel:

  3. Angel McDee permalink
    May 17, 2018 8:57 am

    Brett is an alleged wife-beater:

    STATUTE: 0900-1

  4. February 2, 2019 8:11 am

    I thought the movie was pretty good. It was not the best movie but it was a decent movie with a storyline. It had some familiar faces and names. The storyline was good. The movie was not slow or confusing either.

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