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Thursday, April 21, 2016

I Am Wrath 2016 * * Stars

I Am Wrath
Director: Chuck Russell
Year: 2016
Rated R
Rating: * * Stars
Cast: John Travolta, Christopher Meloni, Rebecca De Mornay

John Travolta and Christopher Meloni know that they're appearing in a campy shoot-'em-up. They also know that their kooky interplay is what the script requires in said shoot-'em-up. Finally, they realize that they've fallen far from the days of Pulp Fiction and Law & Order: SVU. Do they care? Probably not. Otherwise, they wouldn't have agreed to star in I Am Wrath (my latest review).

"Wrath" is helmed by Chuck Russell. He's a guy that I guess, grew up within a stone's throw of where I live (Edison Park, Chicago). Having not made a film since 2002, it's odd that the director of such box office hits as The Mask and Eraser would wait over a decade to put such a predictable revenge thriller on his resume. Bodies pile up, acting is middle-of-the-road, Travolta's hair (or his highlighted toupee) becomes a supporting bit part, and obligatory, techy news footage inhabits the opening credits. Would I call Russell's "Wrath" a John Wick clone with less kills? That's a fair assessment. Would I recommend it considering that I've seen much worse direct-to-video releases (Exposed comes to mind)? Not quite. With a farcical ending, Rebecca De Mornay accumulating just a few minutes of screen time, and laughable decisions made by the makeup department (some scenes are bloodless while other shots have to show the required red dye on the trouper's faces), I Am Wrath is the definition of average. "I am" not that impressed by it.

Taking place in Ohio and filmed in Ohio (Columbus to be exact), "Wrath's" title refers to a biblical passage drawn from the book of Jeremiah. When the flick concludes with the antagonist asking the protagonist, "who are you?", the response is emphatically, "I am wrath". Talk about a cheesy cinematic moment. So OK, here's the story: Stanley Hill (John Travolta) is an engineer who is in between jobs. As "Wrath" opens, we find out that he might be employed again with great opportunities. Now Stanley wasn't always this stodgy workman. He used to be a badass black ops guy, capable of killing at will (with his bare hands mind you). When his wife is murdered in front of him (in the confines of a dark parking garage), Stanley comes out of retirement, rift with guns blazing. He wants to avenge the death of the woman he loved. And against his initial judgment, he gets help from his former co-worker, a gun-toting compadre named Dennis (played by Chris Meloni).

As mentioned earlier, you know how I Am Wrath is going to play out almost before the actors/actresses do. When Hill's wife Vivian gets stabbed, it's so apparent that it wasn't just a random hit. This act of belligerence came from the top-down (could it have been the fact that the governor of the Buckeye State was responsible, hint hint). Obviousness aside, Travolta's solution in "Wrath" is a violent one and it is presented in foolhardy fashion. Once an A-list actor in the 1970's and 1990's, John Travolta's performance here is a B-list, vigilante take on Charles Bronson, Denzel Washington, and/or Clint Eastwood (pick one). You kinda ache for remnants of his better, more humored version of action lore in From Paris with Love ("Kitchen staff? They're no kitchen staff!").

In conclusion, if it's raining outside, you've read every book in your house, you've played solitaire for hours, or you've already binge-watched reruns of Flashpoint, I guess viewing I Am Wrath would be a useful time killer. Here's the thing though: Wait about a month to rent it. At the moment it's not worth ponying up $9.99 via On Demand. Rating: 2 stars

Written by Jesse Burleson

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