Monday Night Mayhem DVD Review: “Hunt To Kill”
Written By: Shawn “The Angry Hero” Marek
Produced By: Nasser Entertainment
Directed By: Keoni Waxman
Starring: Steve Austin, Eric Roberts, Gil Bellows, Gary Daniels, & Michael Eklund
Hot off the heels of a quality bad-ass villain turn in The Expendables, WWE Hall of Famer & former WWE Champion “Stone Cold” Steve Austin makes his return to the cinema world in Hunt To Kill, the third in a series of direct-to-DVD features from Nasser Entertainment. Hunt To Kill is essentially Commando set in the woods, doing its best to recall the party days of over-the-top actions flicks from the 1980’s. While the film does eventually find its way in the third act, the bulk of the movie leaves you as numb as if you spent an afternoon in the chilly Montana wilderness.
Austin plays Jim Rhodes (not to be confused with War Machine), a Border Patrol agent that has had a pretty rough go. His wife left him, making him the sole guardian of their daughter Kim. Then, if it wasn’t enough being a single parent working a stressful gig protecting our nation’s borders, Rhodes & his partner, the out-of-place but consistently awesome Eric Roberts, get ambushed during a meth lab stakeout. Roberts is shot dead (vest be damned — those bullets were adamantium!), and Austin barely makes it out alive before the lab explodes. We skip ahead four years later, as Rhodes has been promoted (demoted?) to Montana to protect the Canadian border. As it turns out, Rhodesâ€™s border patrol expertise & wilderness training come in handy when a gang of runaway casino thieves traipses into small-town Montana.
Gil Bellows plays Banks, the de facto leader of the villains, who are in pursuit of their double-crossing colleague Lawson, who has retreated into Montana in hopes of escaping into Canada with the casino loot. I will readily admit that I really like the villains in Hunt To Kill. There’s something very Devil’s Rejects/Texas Chainsaw Massacre about a group or “clan” of soulless, malevolent sociopaths double-crossing & cannibalizing each other to the point where all the hero needs to do is punch his time card and go home with nary the effort. Right from the beginning, there is always a thick fog of tension, leading to arbitrary murders within the group and complete disorder. Their plan is to buzzsaw through Montana, Rhodes, & everything else in their path with no regard for consequences or full-fledged manhunts. Maybe this is why Rhodes is surprisingly low-key, since he already knows that he has these guys where he wants them.
So, Banks & crew show up at a small-town police station to threaten the law enforcement into taking them into the woods to find Lawson. Steel balls on all of them! I find this particularly interesting, because what would have happened had the thieves walked in and the place was filled with armed officers? Would they have turned around and left? (Probably not; see above). Thankfully, it’s just an elderly sheriff there with Kim, now a kleptomaniac that has been pinched. Rhodes arrives to bail his daughter out and walks right into Banks & friends putting a beat down on the cop and putting a bullet in his head. Forced into park guide servitude by Banks, who automatically assumes that any schmo that lives in Montana knows his way through the woods, Rhodes & his daughter must lead the crooks to Lawson, and eventually, safety.
The second act of Hunt To Kill is largely Rhodes leading the crooks through the woods, which is not very exciting and lacks serious tension. It would have made more sense if Banks & his group took Kim hostage and forced her to lead them around, with Rhodes in pursuit. There are some failed rescues & attempted escapes, but mostly we are subjected to constant in-fighting between the baddies & lots of “Where are we? I don’t care! Just keep moving!” It grows rather tedious until finally Austin channels his inner Rambo and starts offing the members one at a time.
Another sticking point is that the daughter Kim is borderline annoying. She freely chides Rhodes for trying to save her, only to get mad at him for not tending to her well-being. Seeing that Austin’s character has nothing else to live for but her, Kim’s steady disdain for her father is all the more confusing. It is not to say that she couldn’t display some ovarian fortitude of her own, but you would think that having a grizzled law enforcement official for a father would make one inclined to listen more closely.
As a counterpoint, Rhodes is a very stoic individual, a drastic departure from Austin’s wrestling hell raiser persona. Austin does a good job with the role, portraying an emotionally battered man who has experienced nothing but loss & pain for the better part of his life. His daughter’s mother bailed, and his partner & close friend was killed. Kim is all he’s got, and he’s doing the best he can despite her petulance. Once again, the chaotic nature of the villains is the perfect compliment to Rhodes’ cool, calculated attitude towards the sudden abduction of his daughter, and ultimately, he prevails.
From a technical perspective, there’s nothing groundbreaking in Hunt To Kill, but it gets the job done. You have explosions, slow-motion fight sequences, plus just the right amount of blood & violence to keep the audience interested. Director Keoni Waxman, a veteran of similar features starring Steven Seagal, knows all the tricks and stacks them up nicely, leading to a satisfying final showdown between Rhodes & Banks. Basically, once Rhodes goes primal and starts “hunting” the villains, Hunt To Kill really shines.
Every year for Christmas, I get my father some kind of action or sci-fi flick that he can watch some random weeknight. Hunt To Kill would be that sort of movie. It’s violent & to the point, boasting a household name in ass-kicking as its lead star. So if you’re looking for a decent action movie with some psycho, haphazard villains, or if you just want to see what Steve Austin is up to, give Hunt To Kill a shot.
Hunt To Kill is available on Blu-Ray & DVD right now. For more information, log on to the film’s official website (located at www.HuntToKill-TheMovie.com), and be sure to follow “Stone Cold” Steve Austin on Twitter (at www.Twitter.com/SteveAustinBSR).
Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to check out my blog (at www.FutureEndeavored.tumblr.com), and follow me on Twitter (at www.Twitter.com/AngryHeroShawn). And above all things — be a man!