We all love a good action flick. Even the worst action movies can get somewhat of a pass if the action is exciting and visceral. Action movies, as of late, have become much more versatile than some might expect. On the one hand, you have the style of action movies such as Taken, Jason Bourne, and Sicario, where there’s certainly action in all of those movies, but they manage to back that action up with high stakes or a strong emotional crux. On the other, you have the style of action movies in the vein of say The Expendables, Kingsman, and John Wick, where there might be a good level of seriousness, but the promise is just a good time with competent and high octane action for an hour or two. Hard Kill doesn’t really categorize well on either side of the action movie spectrum because it’s neither fun or stylish and takes itself a little too seriously. The action has virtually no stakes at all and the dynamics between the team is poorly developed.
The film focuses on a group of mercenaries, organized by billionaire and tech CEO Donovan Chalmers, protecting a dangerous piece of technology. Team leader and combat expert Derek Miller gets himself in a deadly showdown with an old enemy of his. The mission then takes a complete shift when Chalmers’s own daughter is suddenly taken as a hostage by the enemy. Miller and the rest of his team will stop at nothing to defend this piece of technology and to get Chalmers’s daughter back safe and sound.
Action movies, for the most part, will more than likely have a simple premise. The premise for Hard Kill is easy and simple to follow, but then that leads us to the first issue with the movie. The narrative and the consequences that follow for the whole 100 minutes of the movie are rather uninteresting and disappointingly uneventful. Hard Kill never really spends time explaining on what this piece of technology is capable of, what it’s used for, or even what the bad guys want with it. It’s seems to be a very important plot device for the movie, but the biggest problem and frustrating part is that Hard Kill doesn’t dive into that part of it’s narrative. So, in essence, it makes all the shootouts and hand to hand combat scenes a waste of time because we don’t have a sense for what the good guys are fighting for.
When getting into the action of Hard Kill, this is also a frustrating element to pick apart because clearly there was a lot of effort in constructing the action set pieces in the movie. The issue that remains is the rest and majority of the action, aside from one or two competent action sequences, is often clumsy and it also suffers from a severe amount of unnecessary shaky cam. Shaky cam worked in the Bourne movies because Paul Greengrass used it as a specific and highly effective way of shooting his action scenes. Hard Kill, being directed by Matt Eskandari, tries to imitate a lot of moments and scenes from a Bourne movie but it comes across as unoriginal and as a cheap gimmick. It’s one thing to try and recreate certain aspects as homages to other action flicks, but it’s abundantly clear that Hard Kill didn’t really put in any thought of creating its own unique style, instead opting to copy another style, and it shows.
In addition to all of this, the performances and group chemistry, which is barely developed, is also where Hard Kill features issues. Jesse Metcalfe, who you might recognize from John Tucker Must Die as John Tucker himself, is set to be our lead action star, Derek Miller. Miller is big, physically intimidating, and looks like he can stand toe to toe with a serious threat on his own, but those big muscles and that combat experience don’t save anything from his stilted and subpar performance. His interactions with the rest of his team are uncomfortable and extremely cringe-worthy, and it seemed as if the script didn’t give him much to say or to do. You’ve also got actor extraordinaire, Bruce Willis, as CEO Donovan Chalmers, and Hard Kill doesn’t give him much to do either. Willis already has a legendary career just with by playing John McClane from the Die Hard movies, but for the last five years or so, Willis has been turning in some phoned-in performances, and his performance in Hard Kill is no different.
Hard Kill is a lousy attempt of creating an original and engaging action movie. The action is shot with complete incompetence and it’s served as visual nonsense. The performances from our lead star is wooden as wood gets and respected actor, Bruce Willis, turns in another weak performance. Aside from one impressive action scene towards the end of the movie, Hard Kill has a lot negativity that outweighs the positivity that this movie thought it had.
In theaters, on VOD, and digital August 25th, 2020.
Final Score: 1.5 out of 5.