It’s funny, we talk a lot about Nicolas Cage and the sheer volume of mostly straight-to-video movies he puts out. In fact, you could say Cage has earned a certain reputation for it. You may not realize it, but Bruce Willis isn’t far behind him. Here in the twilight of his movie career, the 66-year-old Willis has found a home popping out VOD action thrillers by the gross. He’s set to appear in SIX movies in 2021 alone. He already has four set for next year with several others in post-production.
His latest, the oddly titled “Out of Death”, fits the model of many of these Willis movies – meager budget, middling-to-bad material, and a quick paycheck for a couple days work. But the ever-likable Willis still brings a good presence to the screen and the sentimental side of me still enjoys seeing him, even when he’s sleepwalking through a role like he is in “Out of Death”. From his very first scene Willis looks tired and detached, a clear sign for how audiences can expect to feel.
The film begins with Shannon (Jaime King) arriving in the mountains to spread the ashes of her recently deceased father. While hiking to her dad’s favorite spot she inadvertently walks up on a drug transaction between an astonishingly dumb dope dealer named Jimmy (Oliver Trevena) and a crooked sheriff’s deputy named Billie (Lala Kent). The swap quickly sours ending with Billie gunning down Jimmy as he’s running away. Shannon witnesses it all and even takes a few shots with her camera before being noticed.
Shannon takes off running while the potty-mouthed Billie radios her equally corrupt boss, Sheriff Hank Rivers (Michael Sirow). In addition to running cocaine through the area, Rivers is also running for mayor of some town we never see. The last thing he needs is to get his hands dirty so close to election day. So he sends his chain-smoking older brother Tommy (Tyler Jon Olson) to help Billie clean up the mess.
Elsewhere in the woods, Jack Harris (Willis), a retired cop from Philly, just lost his wife of 32 years to cancer. He’s come to the mountains to stay a week at his niece’s lake house hoping that some quiet time alone will help him cope with his loss. While out for a stroll he stumbles upon a captured Shannon as she’s about to be executed by Billie and Tommy. Thankfully for our protagonists the two deputies are utterly incompetent leading to Jack rescuing Shannon and kicking off a slow and mostly uneventful game of cat-and-mouse.
First time director Mike Burns works from a script from first time screenwriter Bill Lawrence and both give an admirable effort. But the movie has too much working against it from the start. The budget constraints are pretty obvious although the movie works around it the best it can. Far more noticeable is the acting which, outside of King, is pretty bad. Even the usually reliable Willis struggles. Some of its due to the script which is plagued by some dopey dialogue that the performances can’t overcome. The story also puts its characters in some ludicrous positions and no level of acting talent can make these scenes anything but laughable.
Burns tries to add a few flourishes to his movie such as breaking the story up into chapters for no real reason whatsoever. And there’s a weird ‘25 minutes earlier’ clip near the end that is completely unnecessary. But those are small issues next to the film’s bigger problems. “Out of Death” is ultimately held down by its story that fizzles out before the halfway mark and several bland to bad performances that are too distracting to get past. And it doesn’t help that the film’s marquee name seems totally uninterested. Kinda like us for most of the 93-minute runtime. “Out of Death” is now streaming on VOD.