LIONSGATE PREMIERE (2017)

 

Director: Steven C. Miller

 

Starring: Hayden Christensen, Bruce Willis, Gethin Anthony, Ty Shelton, Megan Leonard, Tyler Jon Olson, Shea Buckner

If you’re being bullied, learn how to fire a gun.

 

It may not be the desired message of First Kill, but it comes across that way at times. Danny (Shelton) is being bullied at school, and City hotshot Will (Christensen) believes the best way to toughen his young son up is a trip to the small town where he grew up to give him his first taste of deer hunting. Right on!

 

Packing their things, Will, Danny and wife/mother Laura (Leonard) head to Granville, Ohio to visit family and get their shooting on.

Local Police Chief Howell (Willis) recognises Will from years gone by having been friends with his parents, dispensing few pleasantries before warning Will to stay alert – there’s been a high cost robbery recently and the suspects are at large. Despite gentle pleas from Laura not to force animal death on their son, Will and Danny head deep into the woods in pursuit of their prey.

 

Rather than finding grazing deer, they find a man, Levi (Anthony), being held at gunpoint as his captor demands a ‘vital’ key from him. Things soon go sour as Levi throws the key in the woods and Will is forced to unleash some lead on the gun-toting madman, and despite his efforts to cover his tracks, Howell isn’t convinced of Will’s innocence during the ensuing investigation – especially when Danny is taking hostage by Levi with one demand: exchange the key for Danny. It turns out Levi was in on the robbery, and members of the local police also.

 

There’s nothing revelatory about First Kill, there are some cool chase scenes and stand-offs, and a diversion from the psycho kidnapper, but by and large the movie fairly formulaic. This is apparent simply having Steven C. Miller as director, a man specialising in straight to DVD generic romps, now in his third collaboration with Bruce Willis and still no closer to breaking through – and no closer to any ambition. There’s anti-bullying messages galore throughout, and also a strange subtext surrounding health costs, but Miller is more focused on the chase before getting to the action.

 

The action itself is well shot and looks good. Where the character direction may falter, the visual direction is just fine. The movie is a slow burner, not filled to the brim with action, rather a game of cat and mouse (and mouse?) between Levi, Will and Howell with each attempting to stay a step ahead of each the others. Much of the movie is focused on Christensen and Anthony with Willis popping up periodically to pick up his pay cheque.

 

Christensen is solid as Will, the loving yet flawed father. He seems natural when playing the doting father and confident during the action scenes, but does look a bit lean at times physically. In past reviews of his movies, I’ve pointed out Darth in the bath scenes (Awake, American Heist), alas no baths this time, so I’ll settle for Darth Va-deer. Gethin Anthony plays his role brilliantly, displaying an almost fatherly affection for Danny during his captivity, and dishing out wisdom as opposed to beatings. Bruce Willis got paid (maybe one day we’ll see the Bruce of old, but not just yet)

 

A fairly by-numbers action flick, First Kill offers nothing new, but is still an entertaining ride for its short runtime.

July 26th 2017

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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