Bruce Willis cop film ‘First Kill’ goes with any refreshment of choice
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Back in the day we called them “popcorn movies.”
You knew going in that nobody involved in the making of the film was going to have to set the alarm clock for Nomination Tuesday in case of an Academy nod. This was going to be pure genre escapism, accompanied by a giant bucket of popcorn and a large helping of just-go-with-it.
These days your faithful reviewer refers to such fare as a “Generous Pour Movie.” As in, get the 8-ounce Pinot Noir, settle in and have some mindless fun. (If you don’t drink, get that popcorn or those nachos and that generous pour of one of the 57,000 flavored drinks on tap.)
The blood-soaked potboiler “First Kill” is Generous Pour through and through, from Bruce Willis playing a cop for the umpteenth time in his career to the old switcheroo we can see coming a mile away to the pounding and overwrought score to some genuinely effective detours and subplots.
Remember when Hayden Christensen was quite the big deal in the 2000s, what with his fine work in films such as “Life as a House’ and “Shattered Glass,” and his being cast as Anakin Skywalker?
Well, here he is playing Will, a successful Wall Street stockbroker with a macho streak who makes a spur-of-the-moment decision to take his wife Adele (Magi Avila) and their young son Danny Ty (Ty Shelton) on a vacation to the town where Will grew up. (He hasn’t been back in years and years.)
The main purpose of the getaway is for Will to take Danny on his first hunting trip. Time to kill! We get the sense Will doesn’t spend as much time with Danny as he should, and this is his way of reaching out to the boy, in the hopes they’ll bond in the woods as Will teaches Danny how to use a rifle and zero in on the prey.
In a classic case of bad timing (and the plot device that gives us a movie), Will and Danny happen upon a confrontation in the woods between two bank robbers. Once the bad guys spot Will and Danny — well, it’s not good.
Gethin Anthony gives the film’s best performance as Levi, the bank robber who takes Danny hostage. Once they arrive at Levi’s place, we learn a little bit about Levi’s life and his motivations for participating in the crime. He becomes an increasingly sympathetic (albeit deeply flawed) figure, even forging a father-son dynamic with Danny, who isn’t shy about speaking his mind. Danny never forgets the guy he’s talking to is, you know, a bank robber and a kidnapper, but he sees something redeemable about Levi.
Meanwhile, Will gets deeper and deeper in the muck as he tries to rescue Danny. Bruce Willis’ Howell is a veteran lawman with some long-ago and mysterious history with Will’s parents. Howell teams up with Will to track down the stolen loot and find the bad guys and save Danny — but he begins to suspect Will isn’t being completely honest with him. Then again, what’s up with Howell? What are the motivations behind that trademark Bruce Willis smirk and the tricky gleam in his eye? And dang, that’s some quasi-Tarantino exploding-head stuff right there!
Lionsgate Premiere presents a film directed by Steven C. Miller and written by Nick Gordon. Rated R (for violence and language). Running time: 97 minutes. Opens Friday at AMC Woodridge and on demand.