So, De Niro executed some Serb rapists and war criminals in the 90’s. One of them, Travolta, survives. After 18 years Travolta finally gets intel on where De Niro lives and heads to America to track down and kill/torture De Niro, who is living in them thar hills in isolation, living out retirement listening to Johnny Cash. Revenge is always a manly premise in movies, even if the story can’t back it up. Plotholes and ‘is he serious?’ acting can be forgiven. An added attraction is the supposed 1 vs 1 showdown between two lethal retirees in the wilderness, almost First Blood style. And for a while, the movie plays it slow and sets up the upcoming duel very nicely with some manly no bullshit back and forth. After pretending to be a tourist (really now…), something De Niro takes at face value (really, now…!), Travolta shows his true colors and, as they say, the hunt is on.
Up ’till that point, the movie is very engaging and subtle. After that point, it loses its way. I guess writers block set in with whoever wrote the screenplay, and it looks like De Niro gives up too. In the first half his acting is pretty good, in the second half it’s painful. Can’t a man who has been doing this for 40+ years tell a good script from a bad one by now? Travolta’s acting is a problem from beginning to end. It’s hard to tell whether Travolta is trolling or not, maybe he’s just doing this to keep the airport he built in his garden running, but his Serbian accent and overall demeanor constantly dances on the ‘laughable’ line. On the upside, for a relatively small project, the production values are to be appreciated. It was filmed in America, it has a good score – not a rent-a-thriller score, it feels unique, like it was made solely for De Niro and Travolta. And the movie is an uninhibited R-Rated deal, the violence is realistic and explitict. In the end though, the movie descends into repetitiveness. How many times have you seen someone taken hostage, only to secretly cut open the rope that binds their hands? Well, you’ll see it several times here with one guy doing it to the other, in one movie. And you can visibly see the actors grow tired of it. All leading to a shit monologue and cop out ending.
This movie was originally to star both Travolta and Nic Cage, back when it was called ‘Shrapnel’, a follow up to Face/Off. And you know what? John McTiernan was going to direct it. But fear not, he would’ve turned this version down, the script is literally half baked.