November 9th, 2022
MOVIE: PARADISE CITY
STARRING: STEPHEN DORFF, BRUCE WILLIS, JOHN TRAVOLTA, PRAYA LUNDBERG, BLAKE JENNER
DIRECTED BY: CHUCK RUSSELL
AMovieGuy,com’s RATING: 1 STAR (Out of 4)
With what we know about Bruce Willis, it’s incredibly difficult to review and watch his work. The legendary action star has been battling with a form of dementia for some time and thankfully his recent film- Paradise City uses him as minimally as possible. That still does not stop this direct to VOD actioner from being incredibly inept and lackluster. There was a shred of hope in having director Chuck Russell behind the camera, who has a resume of The Mask, Eraser, and the 1988 remake of The Blob. It’s hard to say, but Paradise City is far below the level of those other films, quickly falling into the low-budget trappings. It’s a standard cops trying to get the bad guys story and that can’t be elevated in the laughably bad Paradise City.
It begins with detective Ian Swan (Willis) fighting to capture the notorious crime boss but in his pursuit it leaves him dead. Now his son Ryan (a quite mediocre Blake Jenner) arrives in Hawaii with hopes to find the man that killed his father. Along with him on the case is a bounty hunter named Robbie Cole (a seldom used Stephen Dorff) and crime detective Savannah (Praya Lundberg). Hiding behind the scenes is local politician Blake (John Travolta- the lone bright spot) who is using the help of the crime syndicate for his own gains. Of course his connection with the crime boss is much deeper, setting the police on a path to take him down.
When it comes to these DTV movies, the majority of the problems stem from sheer laziness, and working with nothing budgets. The model is to pay the actors and use the little money they have leftover. This leads to lazy dialogue, the screenplay written by Edward Drake, Corey Large, and Russell has doozy lines such as, “the name is Swan, like the bird”. But it also features truly screwball concepts, such as the local strip club is an undercover collection of women that provide details for the police, and violence taking place in broad daylight. If the goal is for Travolta and his goons to not be caught, they sure do suck at it.
The anticipation of Willis and Travolta being in a room together does happen- a brief meeting of threats at a restaurant- but it truly is the bare minimum from both of them. Willis we can understand, there are horrible moments of his blatant body doubles in his place, and his screen time is truly limited. For Travolta he is just working in his standard bad guy mode, a rare moment where the star somewhat phones it in, where even his efforts in movies such as The Fanatic or Gotti at least show an actor that should still be given better scripts. The remainder of the action involves the two agents Ryan and Savannah, falling for one another in between shootouts, and hoping to find the bad guys.
It’s ultimately just sad. Paradise City has a capable cast working with a script that was concocted overnight. At best it feels like a free paid trip to Hawaii for everyone involved. The direction from Russell is hamstrung by budget issues but it still settles for the bare minimum. The only reason anyone would need to see this is the Travolta completists and maybe for anyone looking to catch a glimpse of a Pulp Fiction reunion. All of that is still not enough. In Paradise City, the grass isn’t green and it’s not pretty either.
PARADISE CITY IS IN SELECT THEATERS, ON DIGITAL, AND ON DEMAND FRIDAY NOVEMBER 11TH, 2022.
Written by: Leo Brady