Frank Valera (Banderas) is a fast-talking, slick and slimy defence lawyer spouting over 80,000 words per day – his figures – for his job when, as he states, only three are really what he needs: ‘I love you’. Missing his daughter’s talent show performance through work, he admits in a voiceover he doesn’t use those words enough, but as his wife and daughter are murdered on their way home that night he can never use them again. And so, Frank takes a vow of silence until he has avenged them.
Acts Of Vengeance is a film entirely reliant on expectations. Maintain relatively low ones and there is a good chance you will enjoy Isaac Florentine’s film for what it is: a reasonable action-thriller in a sub-genre created by the standard-setter Taken. The issue is that we suspect the filmmakers’ expectations were a little higher, as the plot is split into parts beginning with title cards featuring quotes from Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius’ writings Meditations. Clearly designed to elevate the film above the usual middle-aged-man-seeks-vengeance fare that features regularly on the straight to VOD lists in recent years – see Pierce Brosnan (The November Man) or Mel Gibson (Blood Father) – this only serves to draw attention to the flimsy, unoriginal plot.
Borrowing from all manner of similar films and television shows, Acts Of Vengeance fails to blend these elements into a cohesive narrative. The moody aesthetic is reminiscent of John Wick – and there’s even a dog – while the sympathetic nurse with a past echoes Marvel’s Daredevil and Luke Cage. There is a rather clunky training montage as Frank goes from weak lawyer to a kick-ass, highly trained fighter in just one year, and as his vow of silence continues Frank’s hearing apparently becomes more acute, again in just a few months. Too many borrowed plot points that render Florentine’s film confused and cliché-ridden.
All that said there is some enjoyment to be found. Banderas is always an engaging screen presence and almost, almost carries off the brooding father character despite the faint preposterousness inherent in several moments. Paz Vega tries her intriguing best as the under-written nurse Alma and Karl Urban is always worth watching, albeit as little more than a cameo and his character might have well entered shot carrying a huge sign.
As we said, it’s about expectations. Expect little and Acts Of Vengeance is a reasonably enjoyable if instantly forgettable genre thriller. Expect more and, well, you have been warned.
ACT OF VENGEANCE / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: ISAAC FLORENTINE / SCREENPLAY: ALEXANDER PAYNE, JIM TAYLOR / STARRING: ANTONIO BANDERAS, KARL URBAN, PAZ VEGA / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW