When his wife is tragically killed in a seemingly random robbery, grieving husband Stanley Hill takes matters into his own hands, after corrupt police officers fail to do anything about her death. It turns out that Stanley and his barber friend Dennis, have a very particular set of skills from their former lives as CIA black ops and soon begin killing their way through the city underworld towards the truth.
The unexpected success of Taken and the even more surprising reinvention of Liam Neeson as an action hero has sparked a trend of aging dramatic actors taking on similar roles. It’s been previously established that Travolta is perfectly capable of doing action, most memorably as the possibly insane Charlie Wax in Pierre Morel’s equally mental euroshlock thriller From Paris With Love, but Stanley is a far less interesting presence to spend 100 minutes watching.
Such is the unimaginative nature of I Am Wrath, you’ll have the entire plot mapped out after ten minutes, for all the minimal significance it actually has on proceedings. Director Chuck Russell may have some questionable entries on his CV, but regardless of objective quality at least everything he’s previously had a hand in has possessed some degree of fun. There is an overwhelming feel of merely going through the motions here, regarding both the film and those acting in it, with the greatest tragedy being Rebecca De Mornay – who really deserves a lot better – being reduced to a walk-on sacrificial role.
The handheld filming style is presumably meant to ascribe some gritty authenticity to an otherwise overly generic revenge plot, but merely makes an already boring story appear amateurishly shot, and is periodically amplified by music that appears to believe on-screen events are far more dramatic than they actually are. Likewise the unnecessary use of slow motion, which rather than heightening the impact of attempted emotional sucker punches, instead emphasises how insignificant the unfolding action actually is.
Attempts to infuse some meaning to the wafer-thin setup come in the form of some late-stage rambling about divine forgiveness and corruption and damnation, in a ham-fisted and frankly laughable attempt to portray Travolta as some sort of avenging angel (hence the film’s title), which serves only to further highlight just how meaningless it all is.
Unlike, say, John Wick, which actually elevated itself through its taciturn minimalism, I Am Wrath is a monotonous slog from overfamiliar start to inevitable finish, during which no amount of lazy shootouts or poor fight choreography can inspire even a glimmer of excitement.
I AM WRATH / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: CHUCK RUSSELL / SCREENPLAY: PAUL SLOAN, YVAN GAUTHIER / STARRING: JOHN TRAVOLTA, CHRISTOPHER MELONI, AMANDA SCHULL, SAM TRAMMELL, PATRICK ST. ESPRIT, REBECCA DE MORNAY / RELEASE DATE: 16TH MAY