Movie Review: Stu Bennett vows “I Am Vengeance”

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Stu Sanders Wade Barrett is a British wrestler and bare-knuckle boxer turned big screen action hero, where he goes by the name “Stu Bennett.” 

He’s of that Schwarzenegger/Dave Bautista/John Cena class of Action Jacksons, a man mountain any lesser mortal would be a fool to tangle with. Six foot five, 17.5 stone (246 pounds), he doesn’t need a gun.

Which is why he has so many in “I Am Vengeance,” a British B-movie about another “ex-Special Forces” commando out to avenge himself on the blokes what murdered ‘is mate.

I don’t know how many times I have to reiterate this point, but once you’ve established the “special skills” an “extraordinary specimen” has, there’s nothing remotely interesting about watching them pummel and puncture legions of villains in their quest to whatever inane goal the script has set up for them. Piling pistols on top of that is just lazy.

“Ordinary woman” or “man on the street” fending off killers is worth a movie. Man Mountain trained to snap necks? Meh.

Bennett is a Mark Strong without the acting chops, baritone, scowling. He’s Dave Bautista or Cena without the light touch. The odd double-take lands. Two bad guys figuring they’ll have his measure and hit the pub?

“First round’s on me, lads,” is almost funny coming out of that lantern jaw.

“Vengeance” is about “a rogue Special Forces” team that has taken over the remote (Hah!) British village of Devotion. We’ve seen them torture this fellow Mason in the opening scene, watched Mason’s reaction to the news that they’ve already murdered his father and mother.

It was Dad’s call, interrupted by gunfire, that John Gold (Bennett) heard on his answering machine. He shows up in Devotion ready to go “all Charles Bronson” on the locals until he’s found the killers.

He shows up in The Old Fox pub, where, like any Old West saloon, “We don’t want no trouble, Mister.” And he announces himself.

“I’m here to find whoever murdered Sgt. Daniel Mason!”

There’s going to be a fight! Or, not yet. Not for the first 40 minutes of this slow-starting, stumbling B-movie.

A cute, flirtatious junkie (Ann Shaffer) might be of some help. Or the local cafe owner Rose (Saffire Elia). Otherwise, Gold is on his on and on the case, storming into drug labs, bowling over “rogue” soldiers who run it, profit from it and defend it — to the death.

Not necessarily by choice.

Gold sets traps for his foes, after fondling his collection of firearms, crossbow and ax in his chosen lair. He lives up to his “one man war machine” rep, even as the hapless Hatcher (Gary Daniels) and all manner of tough guys and just-as-tough (not really) women in league with him are hurled at Gold and bite the dust.

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Writer-director Ross Boyask’s idea of dialogue is a lot of “Look at me,” “Let’s dance!” and “I’m gonna decorate this place in a delicate shade of your skull and brains!”

Guys pause to take off their flak jackets before brawling. In one memorable fight, Gold is pinned between two steroidal stumps and all three stop to watch the junkie freak out on another villain, who doesn’t know what hit him.

Funny.

Sebastian Knapp, who played St. John in “Son of God” a few years ago, stands out in the cast, a sweaty, bug-eyed turn as junkie/dealer Keith, one of the keys to the puzzle.

The mysterious Frost (Mark Griffin) watches all this go down, and has seen the future in an early scene. “Your orders, sir?”

“Orders? Body bags. Lots of them!”

Boyask does manage to stage and shoot some seriously bloody brawls, even if he insists that bad guys point guns at the “one man war machine” and yell “Stay where you are!” Might as well shout “TIME OUT” in the middle of a shoot-out. Silly.

A lifetime of watching this genre has given me an appreciation for the rare films that work and a patience for even the crappy ones, like “I Am Vengeance.” But as much as I love me some fisticuffs and Limey trash talk — “Where do you and the other traitorous wankers hang out?” — there’s just nothing to this one.

Maybe the Hollywood B-action touch could make a star out of Bennett, but if you take away the quasi-Cockney — “Get you fitted for a coffin,” “‘Ave you got a DEAF wish or sumfin?” — and this wouldn’t have merited a drive-in movie booking, back when there were drive-ins.

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MPAA Rating: unrated, graphic violence, drug abuse, profanity

Cast: Stu Bennett, Anna Shaffer, Gary Daniels, Sapphire Elia, Keith Allen

Credits: Written and directed by Ross Boyask . A Saban Films release.

Running time: 1:33

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