Review: I Am Wrath
PLOT: A former mercenary-turned-family man (John Travolta) returns to his deadly trade after his wife (Rebecca De Mornay) is killed in an attack with links to the explosion of gang violence in his city.
REVIEW: It’s really a shame that such powerhouse nineties icons as Nicolas Cage and John Travolta have been reduced to doing DTV-actioners they wouldn’t have touched with a ten-foot pole in their hey-day. While fans may roll their eyes whenever a schlocky trailer starring one or the other hits the net, what distinguishes Cage and Travolta is that unlike someone like Bruce Wills, who’ll shoot one or two scenes for a grade-Z thriller and happily collect his check, these guys actually do care.
As such, I AM WRATH is marginally better than most DTV fare if only for the conviction Travolta tried to bring to the part. While he’s done his share of action flicks, he’s almost always played baddies, with his good-guy genre roles few and far between. In I AM WRATH, Travolta gets to play a family man, something which fits him naturally, and for a while it looked like this would actually be a decent little B-grade thriller, with early scenes depicting Travolta’s out-of-work suburbanite engineer striking a solid chord.
Alas, the filmmakers here are clearly trying to make this a JOHN WICK clone, with the same kind of random revelation that our every man hero is actually an invincible killer, with him having a walled-up arsenal he’s kept secret from his grown-up daughter (the appealing Amanda Schull). Slapping on his old guns, he immediately seeks out his estranged former partner, Dennis (Christopher Meloni) and cuts a swath through the underworld in a series of unremarkable, low-rent shoot-outs.
It would have been cooler if, instead by secretly being a bad-ass, Travolta had just been a DEATH WISH-style regular guy pushed too far, but that doesn’t seem to be the trend anymore. As much as I like him, the out-of-shape, sixty-plus Travolta is far less convincing as a one-man army than he is as a family man. Looking like he’s extensively doubled in the fights, Travolta, sporting an atrocious wig, looks silly wearing “cool” action hero clothing, like leather jackets and hoodies. Things aren’t helped by the incredibly generic baddies, including True Blood’s Sam Trammell as a scum-bag detective, and the uninspired action design. The latter is especially sad, with this being helmed by Chuck Russell, who (in addition to THE MASK) directed the minor Arnold Schwarzenegger classic, ERASER.
I AM WRATH does have one ace up its sleeve, and that’s Christopher Meloni. A good ten years younger than Travolta, and in lean and mean action hero shape, he’s wholly convincing as a former bad-ass gone to seed, and he mercilessly steals every scene he’s in. It’s telling that the best action sequence – by far – is a solo one for Meloni as he takes on a roomful of thugs hand-to-hand. With someone as action-capable as him in the lead, I AM WRATH might have worked-out to be a superior low-fi actioner. Travolta is still a bigger draw, so it figures he’d be the lead, but it’s not a role that suits him, at least when the action kicks into high gear.
Still, as far as these movies go I AM WRATH is relatively decent, in that it’s something you can watch all-the-way through, unlike recent DTV-Willis vehicles VICE and EXTRACTION. While miscast as an action badass (with a back tattoo he gets late in the film making him look even more ludicrous) Travolta is at least trying and it says something about his professionalism that he doesn’t phone it in (or sport oddball facial hair, such as in THE FORGER). Given my affection for the man, I hope Travolta’s able to mount a serious comeback, but perhaps playing John Wick-clone isn’t the way to go about it.