The Enforcer, 2022.
Directed by Richard Hughes.
Starring Antonio Banderas, Alexis Ren, Mojean Aria, Zolee Griggs, Aaron Cohen, 2 Chainz, Kate Bosworth, Mark Rhino Smith, Luke Bouchier, Christos Vasilopoulos, Kostas Sommer, Kika Georgiou, Vivian Milkova, and Natalie Burn.
An enforcer has to sacrifice everything to save a young girl he has befriended from cybersex trafficking.
Antonio Banderas is Cuda, a mobster with a heart of gold in Richard Hughes’ The Enforcer. He doesn’t necessarily start that way, enlisting yard-fighter Stray (Mojean Aria, able to give the hand-to-hand brawls and MMA-style takedowns/submission holds an authentic feel that might be the only decent thing about the action here) for a quick job where the titular enforcer demonstrates his murderous ruthlessness. By the night’s end, Cuda puts a bullet in someone’s head, whereas Stray, who handles himself fine physically, is unprofessional and doesn’t express interest in learning how to conduct himself, leading them to part ways.
Cuda’s daughter Lola (Vivian Milkova) is on the cusp of turning 16 but naturally wants nothing to do with her father, considering she has reached an age where she knows what he does for a living. Likewise, Cuda is also separated from his wife. It’s hard to blame Lola for not wanting this career criminal showing up at school and trying to buy back love with dirty money (literal blood money) and trying to plan an upcoming birthday celebration. Simultaneously, Stray is furthering a newfound romantic fling with nightclub worker Lexus (Alexis Ren), who happens to be associated with Cuda’s boss Estelle (Kate Bosworth).
Feeling down inside, not even 24 hours removed from killing someone in cold blood, Cuda wanders around Miami, where he encounters the shoplifting Billie (Zolee Griggs), a runaway 15-year-old with a rough life and no family. Cuda whips out another fat stack of cash and sets her up in a motel room, under the impression that this could be his shot at redemption (especially since his family wants nothing to do with him. Approximately two days later, he visits to check up on her, finding no one there and signs of a kidnapping struggle.
As a result, Cuda is set on a rampage to get to the bottom of the situation, reconnecting with Stray, who desperately wants more criminal work and pleads to accept constructive criticism, primarily because he wants to make a living and provide for his new girlfriend. And so begins the repetitiveness of hitting up one hotbed for illegal activity after another to piece together a trail. Along the way, we are treated to painfully generic dialogue about revenge, regrets, and forgiveness (the script from W. Peter Iliff is a clunker every step).
Far more frustratingly is that The Enforcer, which already doesn’t do much with any of these characters and their quickly established dynamics, arrives at a cybersex trafficking reveal that is so glossed over and only used for contrived plotting that the film comes across as indulging fringe circles that believe these rings exist on every street corner. There is no attempt to explore how and why these operations are built and maintained (aside from money) or focus on the victims beyond something to save; they are nothing more than a tool for redemption.
If The Enforcer successfully functions as a solid action flick, the above might not be so bad. However, the script largely tells a dramatic story with Cuda drastically changing his personality on the fly. The reaction to the crisis he is facing regarding being forced out of his family’s life is normal, but that haste in which he is ready to sacrifice his life seeking redemption by rescuing a kidnapped teenage girl feels dishonest.
It also doesn’t help that there are glaring production issues (day changes to night for no reason between scenes of Cuda and Billie grabbing dinner after meeting, lines have been dubbed back into English but still contain subtitles that aren’t even the correct spoken words). Then there is the final reveal, which is an attempt at lame shock value.
Any time Mojean Aria is bare-knuckle brawling generic henchmen, The Enforcer is tolerable. Aside from that, it’s a rushed and clichéd mess.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com