'Precious Cargo': Film Review

Precious Cargo Still - Publicity - H 2016
Brian Hilburn/Lionsgate

Precious Cargo Still - Publicity - H 2016

Disposable is more like it.

Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Bruce Willis plays warring criminals in Max Adams' action movie.

In recent years, films featuring Bruce Willis don't so much resemble movies as hostage videos. Somebody needs to rescue the actor from the clutches of Emmett Furla/Oasis Films, a company that must have something blackmail-worthy on him. How else to explain his participation in such direct-to-video-style dreck as The Prince, Vice and Extraction? The latest example is Precious Cargo, a Mark-Paul Gosselaar (Saved by the Bell) action movie vehicle — yes, you're reading that phrase correctly — in which Willis makes a few perfunctory appearances to earn a paycheck and presumably take home the expensive blazers from wardrobe.

It's of course understandable that career opportunities begin to dwindle for action stars of a certain age, although even at 61 Willis is still capable of pulling off a new Die Hard movie every once in a while. The frustrating thing is that he's clearly demonstrated his acting chops in such films as In Country, Billy Bathgate and Nobody's Fool. So why isn't he pursuing good character roles?

Ah, well, enough ranting, back to the task at hand. Max Adams' directorial debut features Gosselaar as Jack, a criminal who likes to rip off other criminals with the help of his gorgeous sidekick Logan (Jenna Kelly), a skilled sniper who shoots her prey while wearing bikini tops and cut-off shorts. Jack, who has a promising new relationship with a sweet veterinarian (Lydia Hull) unaware of his underworld activities, is understandably taken aback when his now very pregnant former lover Karen (Claire Forlani) bursts in on them while they're making love.

After pointing to her stomach and advising Jack to wear a condom, Karen attempts to explain her reappearance only to be interrupted by a cadre of armed assassins storming the house. The trio, with Jack's adorable dog in tow, manages to escape to his speedboat, with the killers frantically pursuing them. During the ensuing frenetic boat/jet ski chase and shootout, Jack and Karen engage in the sort of comically hostile banter suggesting that they obviously adore each other.

It turns out that she's being pursued by the henchmen of crime boss Eddie (Willis), who's after the money she screwed him out of after a recent heist gone wrong. So she persuades Jack to help her pull off a major robbery involving gems worth millions, for which he rounds up his usual crew, including alcoholic driver Andrew (Nick Loeb, best known these days for having been engaged to Sofia Vergara and for his condiment business, Onion Crunch).

Numerous graphically violent shoot-outs and chases ensue, periodically interrupted by the bickering Jack and Karen, the latter displaying a remarkable ability to sprint in high-heels even while looking like she's about to give birth any minute.

There are also, of course, numerous plot twists, including one revelation that at least helps us understand why Jack seems so pissed-off all the time.

It's all strictly run-of-the-mill, although the action scenes, particularly the boat chase, are well-staged, and the screenplay by director Adams and Paul V. Seetachitt features enough snappy dialogue to suggest that they might one day be capable of better things. Gosselaar invests his formulaic character with admirable energy, and Kelly, in only her second film, is terrific as the sardonic sharpshooter.

And then there's Willis, who smirks throughout and delivers his line-readings as if they were being fed to him through an earpiece. Oh, wait, that's what they said about his recent turn on Broadway in Misery.

Distributor: Lionsgate Premiere
Production: Emmet Furla Oasis Films, Herrick Entertainment, Mann Made Films, Grindstone Entertainment Group
Cast: Bruce Willis, Mark Paul Gosselaar, Claire Forlani, John Brotherton, Daniel Bernhardt, Lydia Hull, Jenna Kelly
Director: Max Adams
Screenwriters: Max Adams, Paul V. Seetachitt
Producers: James Edward Barker, Randall Emmett, George Fula, Scott Mann
Executive producers: Martin Blencowe, Stephen J. Eads, Ted Fox, Wayne Marc Godfrey, Anthony Jabre, Robert Jones, Corey Large, Benedict Lee, Vance Owen, Steven Saxton, Kirk Shaw, Mark Stewart, Stan Wertlieb
Director of photography: Brandon Cox
Production designer: Nate Jones
Editor: Robert Dalva
Costume designer: Bonnie Stauch
Composers: James Edward Barker, Tim Despie

Rated R, 89 minutes