'Reprisal': Film Review

As perfunctory as it gets.
8/31/2018

Frank Grillo and Bruce Willis star in Brian A. Miller's thriller about a bank manager and a retired cop teaming up to track down a robber.

If Bruce Willis isn't careful, he may soon be hit by a class-action lawsuit. The legal action will be started by disgruntled moviegoers paying good money in theaters and through VOD to see his latest vehicle, only to be chagrined when they discover the Die Hard star going through the motions. That is, when Willis shows up at all, since despite his star billing the actor's appearances are often little more than gloried cameos.

Such is the case with Reprisal, the latest effort from hack action-movie director Brian A. Miller (Vice, The Prince, Officer Down) that seems to disappear from your memory even while watching it. The film's real star is Frank Grillo (veteran of both the Purge and Captain America franchises). He plays bank manager Jacob, because, as anyone who's ever walked into a financial institution knows, bank managers all look like the chiseled actor.

The film's opening set piece involves a well-orchestrated bank robbery committed by a masked gunman (Johnathon Schaech), who gives his instructions to the bank employees via prewritten index cards because he apparently can't be bothered to disguise his voice.

The robbery results in the death of a guard, which leaves Jacob deeply shaken and resolved to track down the criminal. He enlists the help of his next-door neighbor James (Willis), who happens to be an ex-cop. The two men are soon attempting to figure out the robber's next move, staring at a basement bulletin board filled with newspaper clips and maps like FBI profilers with too much time on their hands.

The film also presents the perspective of the criminal, who's seen visiting his elderly, dementia-addled father and threatening the nursing home staff, and making elaborate preparations for his next heist. Along the way, he gets wind of Jacob's efforts to track him down and retaliates by kidnapping his wife (Olivia Culpo) and young daughter (Natalie Sophie Butler), who, like so many children in this type of film, suffers from a life-threatening condition, in this case diabetes. 

Despite such elaborately staged sequences as an armored-car heist and a lengthy shootout, Reprisal features zero suspense. Miller displays no aptitude for delivering such scenes in thrilling or visceral fashion, too often relying on quick editing and fancy camera moves. But they're wildly entertaining compared to the endless jawboning between Grillo and Willis, which packs all the excitement of a coffee klatch in Boca Raton, Florida.

Grillo uncharacteristically displays no charisma, although considering the material he's working with, it's not surprising that he looks like he simply gave up. Speaking of giving up, Willis, who provides a few sparks to the otherwise lamentable Death Wish remake, here reverts to his by now usual phoning it in. Criticizing the actor's perfunctory turns has by now become repetitive, but it's hard to avoid when his performances have become so — well — repetitive. Willis was far more engaged during his recent Comedy Central roast. There, at least, he seemed in on the joke.

Production: Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films, Ingenious Media, Kind Hearts Entertainment
Distributor: Lionsgate Premiere
Cast: Frank Grillo, Bruce Willis, Olivia Culpo, Johnathon Schaech
Director: Brian A. Miller
Screenwriter: Bryce Hammons
Producers: Randall Emmett, George Furla, Mark Stewart
Executive producers: Noel Ashman, Barry Brooker, Stephen J. Eads, Ted Fox, Wayne Marc Godfrey, Robert Jones, Vance Owen, Stan Wertlieb
Director of photography: Peter Holland
Production designer: Nate Jones
Editor: Ryan Dufrene
Composers: Sonya Belousova, Giona Ostinelli
Costume designer: Rachel Stringfellow

Rated R, 89 min.