Precious Cargo, 2016.
Directed by Max Adams.
Starring Bruce Willis, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Claire Forlani, Jenna B. Kelly and Daniel Bernhardt.
Skilled thief Jack, on the verge of leaving his criminal world behind, is drawn by pregnant ex-lover Karen into a battle against vicious crime boss Eddie, who wants her dead…
If there was one question ringing through my mind by the end of Precious Cargo, it was this: when is Bruce Willis going to fire his agent? That’s perhaps a tad harsh on Max Adams’ debut feature as both writer and director, as it’s not quite as bad as some of the dross Brucey has lowered himself to over the last few years, but equally this action movie isn’t nearly as thrilling, exciting or knockabout as it professes to be. For a start, while it trades off Willis’ mega star wattage, Adams’ film probably only has about twenty minutes of the big man in total, and that’s pushing it as an estimate. The rest focuses on the protagonist Jack, played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar, who is essentially the leading man you hire when even Liam Hemsworth has turned you down (and you only hire him when everyone else has said no). Point is, we don’t have Willis’ laconic charm to keep us interested for the majority of this film, which instead focuses on lesser actors playing some excruciatingly annoying characters who are meant to be likeable, naughty, chipper and funny and often come across as just… desperate. Precious Cargo feels like an 80’s action movie made by an alien who studied how to make an 80’s action movie, and got it wrong.
It involves Jack, who happens to both be a kind, romantic, normal guy and a complete, weapons-trained badass at the same time (pure movie world logic), as he’s preparing to leave the world of conning terrorists in order to pull off risky thefts with younger, acerbic partner in crime Logan (an irritating Jenna B. Kelly) for a nice, sweet life with faintly boring Jenna (Lydia Hull), at which point the sassy, seductive and plainly villainous Karen (played with awkward middle aged verve by Claire ‘remember her?’ Forlani) comes into his life, very pregnant, and drags him into the cross hairs of sinister crime boss Eddie (Willis), hunting her down after she double crossed him.
Crucially, Adams’ script attempts to play up the bonhomie between all of these characters, and indeed between some deeply annoying extra parts of the ‘team’ Jack & Karen ultimately assemble to take the fight back to Eddie, only it’s just often quite painful to watch; equally while Karen may be one of those bad women we love to hate (here we just hate, because she’s a twat), almost every other woman in this film is portrayed as the following: bitchy & acerbic, sexy & stupid, boring & clueless or shrill & angry. Adams wouldn’t know a normal, rounded female character if one punched him in the face, and for a film on the face of it so keen to amp up the female players as having important functions in the story, it becomes increasingly hard to swallow.
As for the story, well, it serves it’s purpose. It becomes a heist, ultimately, involving diamonds & more double crosses, but it’s never as fun or frothy as Adams seems to think, and we’re not having half as much fun watching as the cast had making it (as we see in the credits out takes). There are unintentional comedic points however which do keep you going, for instance the painfully bad execution of a protracted boat chase across the bayou in which Adams attempts to squeeze in all the initial exposition during the carnage to the point it’s almost inaudible; the hilarity of Daniel Bernhardt’s second to Willis, constantly being sent out to kill the team, only to end up every single time being pathetic in how rubbish he is at his job, to the point he just ends up shooting into thin air; or the completely bizarre scene where Bernhardt’s character returns looking for Willis, only to get into a protracted put down face off with Eddie’s ‘harem’ of buxom, fake blonde bimbos, which serves absolutely no bearing on anything else remotely in the movie, bar perhaps allowing for some T&A to wake up male members of the audience (so to speak!). It goes on – only don’t mistake this for being one of those ‘so bad it’s good’ great fun films. It’s not. It’s largely just bad, and very very dumb.
Precious Cargo, at the time of writing, belongs to an illustrious club: the 0% on Rotten Tomatoes list, the preserve of the true dregs of cinema. That’s unfair, as Max Adams’ film does have its intentions in the right place. It wants to excite while making you laugh and making you care. The fact it does none of those things is almost incidental, because everyone loves a trier. Precious Cargo is not the worst film of year, it’s not objectionable in every way, it’s not offensive or horrible or nasty. It’s simply, if nothing else, trying.
Precious Cargo is on general release on July 15th.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Tony Black is a freelance film/TV writer & podcaster & would love you to follow him on Twitter.
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