Let's start with the basic facts: Acts of Violence sucks. But it’s also weird as hell, purely from a casting standpoint. Cole Hauser – who was created from the seed of the great Wings Hauser (Vice Squad for life) – plays Afghanistan War veteran Deklan, who's returned home to write warrior poetry and get mad at his counselors whenever he goes in to try and get a job, because apparently all shifts are full here in Cleveland. "You should never be allowed around veterans!" he sneers at the social worker after swiping everything off his desk in a fit of rage, seemingly forgetting that just seconds before, the man was complimenting him on the poignancy of his latest work of verse. PTSD is a bitch, I think.
Anyway, Deklan has a brother Brandon (former Iceman, Shawn Ashmore) and sister Mia (Melissa Bolona) who's getting married to Roman (Ashton Holmes - yes, the kid from A History of Violence, who has since grown Brian Grazer manga hair). Deklan's kind of a dick to these people, too, coming over on the eve of Mia's bachelorette party and just basically insulting everyone while they wash the dishes. It's as if director Brett Donowho (5 Souls) only gave Hauser the direction of "I dunno, you're angry in this scene, too", and the spawn of Wings just rolled with it. That night, Mia's abducted from the club by a pair of the dumbest sex traffickers the world has ever known (Sean "Son of Pierce" Brosnan, and the single-monikered pop star Rotimi). They work for underworld kingpin Mike Livingston (Mike Epps, no I'm not kidding), who never says anything funny, but is also always mad and wanting to murder people.
Oh, that's right; Bruce Willis shows up, seemingly because his condo association fee was due. The Die Hard legend knocks out a couple days of work – while probably collecting a decent-sized paycheck – and then retires back to bed to listen to old copies of “The Return of Bruno”. Just like his recent turn as Paul Kersey in Eli Roth's Death Wish redux, he is very sleepy here, having pretty much written off Mia's abduction as a lost cause because he's never recovered one of these girls alive before (seems Cleveland has a real forced prostitution problem). Of course, he's been hunting Livingston "for years" with little to no luck, while his partner Brooke Baker (Sophia Bush - I know, right?) keeps on this lovable "asshole" to continue fighting the good fight. If it appears like I'm just playing Mad Libs and popping the strangest actor I can think of into each of these parentheticals, trust me that's how it feels to actually watch Acts of Violence.
So, what's a gaggle of white boys to do when one of them loses their bride? Follow their psycho dickhead vet brother into battle, of course. Deklan suits up and does his best "chubby badass Denzel", leading the moron twins on a quest to retrieve the girl from the clutches of the Dog Pound. Sadly, this is actually where Donowho's film disappoints most. Up to this point, Acts of Violence is mostly a passable piece of Redbox exploitation, sporting a weirdly showy cast of has-beens and hinting at the potential for some solid graphic violence and general nastiness once it kicks into high gear. Unfortunately, Acts of Violence goes completely limp when the time arrives to just get its fuck on, never really giving us anything more than slow-mo machine gun action, while Deklan straps some C-4 to a bad guy’s chest as an interrogation tool. My dudes, if you're going to try and rip off Man on Fire, at least shove it up his ass or pee-hole, for Christ's sake.
In fairness, Acts of Violence looks pretty good, as cinematographer Edd Lukas composes solid night photography, and there's some decently-staged chaos to go along with the standard "you get what you pay for" themes regarding retribution. Nevertheless, when legitimate Redbox auteurs like Isaac Florentine and Jesse V. Johnson are delivering B-Grade trash classics such as Acts of Vengeance and Savage Dog, it's difficult to really give such skull-drudgery any real accolades. What could've been a decent cheap thrill is really nothing more than a somewhat unhealthy way to kill 85 minutes, as Acts of Violence never lives up to the potential of both its weird ass cast or the pedigree of the picture its ripping off. In other words: you could do worse, but why should you settle for this either?
Acts of Violence is out now on Blu-ray, DVD and VOD.