I know what you're going to say. 'Of course, John didn't like this film. He's anti-action films.' You would be wrong.
No, not about the not liking Acts of Vengeance part, the part about hating all action films. I primarily just hate the dumb ones. And that's what Acts of Vengeance has in spades, a whole heaping of stupidity that they try to gloss over with slick action sequences. For me, it doesn't work at all.
But, I'm not anti-action films. I recently loved the John Wick films and True Romance is in my all-time top five. The problem is that Acts of Vengeance tried to mimic the John Wick formula, but failed miserably.
The loose plot, if you want to call it that, revolves around Antonio Banderas' character who is a workaholic lawyer who makes very little time for his family. One rainy night, he misses his daughter's recital and his wife and daughter are murdered. Wracked with guilt, he shuns his law practice and takes a vow of silence until his family's murders are avenged.
Normally, when the main character takes a vow of silence, it's a bad idea unless you're watching a Kevin Smith film. Unfortunately, Jay and Silent Bob are nowhere in sight and Antonio Banderas does plenty of talking in the form of voiceover.
I'm not sure if the vow of silence is just a gimmick or supposed to be some sort of homage to Akira Kurosawa and The Hidden Fortress. Of course, the princess that feigns being mute doesn't do so out of a sense of vengeance, so who knows? I think the tactic would have been better served without the voiceover, to be honest. As it stands, it smells like the cheap gimmick that it is and we are forced to suffer through the awkwardness.
I think the biggest part that doesn't work for me is the casting of Banderas as the film's protagonist. I don't know which part requires more suspension of disbelief, his turn as a hard-working lawyer or his transformation into a buff vengeance machine. Both extremes seem like a stretch and I found myself being taken out of the film many times because of it.
Again, this isn't a critique of Antonio Banderas or his ability to carry an action film. I just feel that he is cast out of his comfort zone in both parts and his unease is felt by the audience throughout the film. Perhaps ironically, he was superb in Desperado earlier in his career that also mined similar territory about a man seeking the killer of his girlfriend.
The main difference between the two films aside from style is the way in which the mystery surrounding the protagonist is handled. In the earlier film, the audience knows very little about El Mariachi and his actions speak for him. In Acts of Vengeance, they spend so much time on character development in the first act that by the time the film reaches its climax, we simply don't care which way it goes.
Ultimately, the film suffers from several flaws that prevent it from reaching its potential. As a result, the rather tight 87-minute runtime feels closer to three hours and you are left wondering why this film was even made in the first place. If you're looking for films with a protagonist avenging his/her murdered family, there are a plethora of options available to you that are far more satisfying. Death Wish and Rolling Thunder are two classic films that you could hunt down.
If you're looking for a better avenging Antonio Banderas film, you can't go wrong with the aforementioned Desperado. As it stands, I would be hard-pressed to recommend Acts of Vengeance for anything more than a tool of torture. With the holidays coming up, that might actually be a viable option for some of you with family coming into town.
Acts of Vengeance is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.