‘Three Midwestern brothers, a crime lord, and an incorruptible cop are on a deadly collision course when the youngest brother’s fiancée is kidnapped by human traffickers. To save her, the MacGregor boys call on their military training – and the strength of family – to fight the most important battle of their lives.’
With action movies relying more and more on big budget effects or choreographed fight scenes that make the heroes look near superhuman, sometimes a more realistic approach can feel new and refreshing. Acts of Violence goes against these modern action films, with little to no visual effects and short, economical action sequences.
Following a trio of brothers and their foster sister Mia (Melissa Bolona), who is now marrying the younger brother Roman (Ashton Holmes). The family is fairly close and portrayed as relatively normal, though there is some inner drama injected with the eldest brother Deklan (Cole Hauser) being a veteran suffering from PTSD.
When Mia is kidnapped by local sex traffickers the brothers turn to local cop James Avery (Bruce Willis) for help, but his hands are bound by the law, forcing the brothers to fall back on their military training to save their family.
It’s a very simple plot, with clear lines between the heroes and villains, and solid end goal. Whilst other action films would try to add sub-plots and plot twists to try to bulk out the film Acts of Violence works well without them, relying on simplicity and a face pace to move the story forward.
Whilst this doesn’t lead to a lot of room for character development the film doesn’t really need it. We get to know the characters pretty well during the short 80 minute run time, with each of the brothers having room to be clearly defined and nuanced enough to be interesting. Because the film is fairly short, and the action takes place over a relatively small period of time, it would feel more jarring if the film did stop the story to spend time delving into character.
Despite the short run time, the film manages to include several action sequences. Simple and grounded in how they’re choreographed and shot, the action scenes feel like something from the 70’s. There’s nothing over the top or spectacular about what happens, and it actually works a lot better for this. For a film that is taking a very real and grounded approach the action fits perfectly, adding to the sense of realism.
A lot of this is helped by Cole Hauser. Where the other brothers are becoming emotional and distraught over the loss of Mia, he’s calm and collected, falling back on his military training to lead the group. He’s not over the top or larger than life, he’s just a regular soldier, albeit one who’s fighting for his family rather than his country.
The film very much feels like a throwback to the 70’s grindhouse pictures, focusing on people going up against organised crime, drug lords, and human trafficking. Thankfully, the film doesn’t go as dark as the films of the 70’s, and doesn’t focus too hard on the horrors of the sex trade; it doesn’t play up the violence of women being kidnapped and forced to become sex workers. This is a good thing, as it stops the film going too dark. The characters and the audience both know how bad things will be for Mia if she’s not rescued, so it’s good that we’re not forced to see it.
Despite a short run time Acts of Violence manages to pack a lot in, keeping the story moving at a brisk pace. It has enough action, story, and character development to stay interesting and engaging without being boring. Yes, it’s a cheap action film made relatively quickly (the film was shot over two weeks), but is well made, competent, and entertaining. Which isn’t something every film can say.