American Siege, 2021.
Written and directed by Edward Drake.
Starring Timothy V. Murphy, Bruce Willis, Rob Gough, Anna Louise Morse, Johnny Messner, Cullen G. Chambers, Trevor Gretzky, and Janet Jones.
An ex-NYPD officer-turned-sheriff of a small rural Georgia town has to contend with a gang of thieves who have taken a wealthy doctor hostage.
Writer-director Edward Drake returns for his latest low-effort team-up with the now-perennially slumming Bruce Willis, and while the filmmaker certainly seems more at home with a grounded cop thriller compared to his prior roughhouse sci-fi joints Cosmic Sin and Apex, this is in its familiarity an altogether duller affair.
American Siege is centered around the unsolved, decade-old disappearance of teenager Brigit Baker, and the efforts of her ex-boyfriend, Roy Lambert (Rob Gough), to finally solve the case as he returns home from completing a lengthy stint in the clink. Accompanied by Brigit’s irate sister Grace (Anna Hindman), they raid the home of Dr. John Keats (Cullen G. Chambers), with whom Brigit was last seen.
A hostage scenario unfolds, leading washed-up, corrupt Sheriff Ben Watts (Willis) to rock up on the scene, while under the thumb of local kingpin Charles Rutledge (Timothy V. Murphy). Watts is tasked with “containing” the combustible situation before it ends up exposing Rutledge’s more unsavoury dealings in the town.
Despite the sensibly low expectations this jaunt invites, it at least has some potential to be a not-terrible southern fried thriller; a gamy stew of corrupt cops and missing persons strewn across the backdrop of America’s grim opioid crisis. Instead, this is largely a standard operating procedure Bruce Willis streamer vehicle; that is, a whole lot of hot air building up to fitful, mediocre explosions of anonymous action, and a plot and characters that never beg the audience’s investment.
Anyone who’s seen a recent Bruce Willis VOD flick will know that he generally only shows up for around 15-20 minutes, and that’s again the case here; he’s absent for large chunks of the film while it falls upon the “supporting” cast to try and sustain interest with a script that does them no favours. Of course, Bruce finally gets animated for the final few scenes, popping off a couple of caps to ensure there are some “exciting” shots to plug into the trailer.
For the most part his work here is mailed in from another continent entirely; it’s embarrassingly obvious when Ben been framed out of shot to accommodate the actor’s shooting schedule. In this case he reportedly only spent one of the movie’s eight shooting days on set, and when another character tells Ben, “At least act like you give a shit,” it’s impossible not to laugh at the possibly-accidental self-reflexiveness.
Between Willis’ character feeling like a third wheel in his own movie, his listless, disinterested line readings, and the fact the earpiece through which he’s fed dialogue is visible in some shots, it couldn’t be clearer that Mr. Willis has no fucks left to give.
The script is meanwhile thunderously boring but there are a few decent shots throughout; it’s not offensively made from a technical perspective as some of Willis’ recent romps are. For a $10 million movie shot in little over a week it looks fine, and the glimpse of a burning pyre in the third act could even pass for genuinely beautiful. It’s also set to a not-bad, jazzy guitar score that’s at least a little different to the usual generic Action Movie Score expected of this ilk.
Really the only saving grace here is that Willis’ co-stars are actually trying for the most part, certainly more than they ever needed to. Timothy V. Murphy, who bares an uncanny resemblance to Michael Fassbender 20-ish years from now, gives a steely performance as the villainous, grizzled Rutledge, and gets a particularly amusing scene where he screams with blind rage at Willis – or rather, Willis’ stand-in. Anna Hindman also gives a fun turn as the film’s most interesting character – the no-nonsense Grace, who is desperate to get closure for her sister’s disappearance.
This is admittedly closer to feeling like a real movie than Edward Drake’s prior Willis-starring works of cinema, and at less than 90 minutes sans-credits it’s hardly complete torture, if also hardly worth bothering with at all.
Bruce Willis completionists know what they’re getting at this point, and though this is a tad more “competent” than average, it’s still a bland, calculatedly programmatic piece of work.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Shaun Munro – Follow me on Twitter for more film rambling.