I take no great joy in tearing a movie to shreds, but sometimes they have it coming. “Dead Reckoning,” now available on VOD, is one of these movies and this is one of those times.
Shot in 2016 and just now being released, “Dead Reckoning” is loosely and tastelessly based on Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the brothers who perpetrated the Boston Marathon bombing back in 2013. K.J. Apa stars as Niko, an Albanian immigrant working as a cabbie on Nantucket to save up for college. Tillie (India Eisley) is a well-to-do young lady who recently lost her parents (John Shea, Frances Fisher … both totally wasted) in a freak puddle jumper airplane crash. Tillie now lives with her Aunt Jenny (Ellie Cornell, Rachel Carruthers from “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers” and “Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers”!) and her partner, Chris (Devon Diep). She’s also taken to the bottle as means of grieving.
One night there’s a rager at Altar Rock (this movie’s original title) where Niko meets Tillie. She’s in the bag. He’s there to sell a dime bag to Lew (Brooks Bowden, this kid has an immensely punchable face and his character has an affectation where he adopts a horrendous British accent like he’s goddamned Madonna. In a movie chock-full of awful performances, his is undoubtedly the worst.). The two meet cute when she pukes. He gives her a lift home, sparks fly and they’re immediately enamored with one another. Lo and behold, Niko’s long lost brother Marco (Scott Adkins, doing a slight variation on his Yuri Boyka accent) returns to Nantucket. Unbeknownst to Niko, Marco sabotaged Tillie’s parents’ plane as revenge for Tillie’s Dad’s involvement in Niko and Marco’s father’s death. Marco intends to complete his vengeance by vanquishing Tillie. That is unless Tillie’s godfather, FBI Agent Cantrell (James Remar), can hunt Marco down and stop him. Marco also has intentions of bombing Nantucket’s Fourth of July beach party – hence the Tsarnaev connection. Niko must now face the eternal conundrum: Bros before hoes or hoes before bros?
I’ve seen a lot of these folks in other, better works. I don’t watch “Riverdale,” but liked Apa in “The Hate U Give” a coupla years back. Eisley (daughter of Olivia Hussey, who you likely remember from Franco Zeffirelli’s “Romeo and Juliet” and Bob Clark’s original “Black Christmas”) was good in the interesting TNT series, “I Am the Night,” where she collaborated with Patty Jenkins and Chris Pine. I’m pretty much the President of Adkins’ fan club, but he doesn’t belong in this movie. He’s one of the best on screen martial artists we have, but he doesn’t spin kick anybody in the face and only has two fight sequences, which are against an aged Remar and a middle-aged woman – they’re both uninspiring. I’ve dug Remar in countless things – “The Warriors,” “48 Hrs.,” “Sex and the City,” “The Girl Next Door,” “Dexter” – he feels uninspired and unengaged like he’s going through the motions to collect a check. They’re all uniformly bad here despite being talented. It doesn’t help that they’re saddled with dialogue that’s reminiscent of the tripe trotted out in “The Room” and “Birdemic: Shock and Terror,” i.e. lines penned by non-native English speakers. The non sequiturs spat by Niko to Tillie (“You’re so pretty. I will fix your bike.”) have BIG time Tommy Wiseau as Johnny energy. As far as I know screenwriters Kristin Alexandre and A. Wayne Carter are native English speakers and have no excuse. They should legitimately be ashamed of themselves.
The direction is no better. This hunk of junk was helmed by cinematographer-turned-director Andrzej Bartkowiak. This dude shot legit shit such as “The Verdict,” “Terms of Endearment,” “Prizzi’s Honor,” “Twins” and “Speed.” I will fully fess up I enjoyed Bartkowiak’s first coupla features – the DMX/Joel Silver collabos “Romeo Must Die,” “Exit Wounds” and “Cradle 2 the Grave” – they’re undoubtedly the guiltiest of guilty pleasures. I was unimpressed by Bartkowiak’s adaptation of “Doom” and his “Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li” is even worse. Chris Klein’s pitiful homage to Nicolas Cage’s mega acting and wigs (seriously, the dude’s hair was reminiscent of Cage’s ‘dos from “Next” and “Bangkok Dangerous”) would be the best performance in “Dead Reckoning” had he been transplanted here. Without hyperbole I can say “Chun-Li” looks like “Citizen Kane” by comparison to “Dead Reckoning.” Much like “The Room” horrific green screen is employed for seemingly no reason. The action has no jolts; the romance no sparks. The film’s most likable attribute is the adorable puppy Niko gifts Tillie. “Dead Reckoning” makes a convincing case that some things are better left buried. If you’re an Adkins fan like I am, you’re better off renting his recent effort “Seized” – that flick actually slaps! Given the movie’s locale, I’ll leave you with a limerick:
There once was a thriller set in Nantucket,
The cast and crew said fuck it,
The action’s bad; the script is worse,
This picture should be hauled off in a hearse,
No one showed up to work; there shouldn’t be a junket.