Reprisal is a strange case of the eponymous direct-to-DVD action movie. It has that distinct sheen of a movie that knows it would never be released theatrically, yet manages to surpass the expectations (perhaps unfairly) placed upon it knowing its retail destiny lies at the bottom of a bargain bin of DVDs at some big box store.
Given that streaming services like Netflix and Amazon making big-budget features hardwired direct to their digital platforms, some of the stigma about medium has lessened. These were once the black sheep of any studio’s slate, pushed out to fulfill contract requirements. Now, films like Reprisal show there’s potential in the medium.
That’s not to say that Reprisal is a great movie. It’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with it, per se. But it’s not exactly compelling or inventive cinema, either.
It does, however, draw A-lister Bruce Willis into a supporting role. Previously, once an actor’s top-billed status starts to fade, they were able to occasionally find a second career for bit parts and supporting roles that would still land them on the cover art.
But Willis is still an in-demand movie star. Sure, Death Wish didn’t do so hot, but it didn’t exactly tank his career. They’re still making another Die Hard movie, so clearly the suits in Hollywood still have faith in the actor.
In Reprisal, he play James, an an ex-cop and neighbor to Jacob, played by Frank Grillo. After a highly skilled bank robber hits the branch where Jacob works, and killing a security guard in the process, he starts to work with James to figure out the crime. Meanwhile, Jonathon Schlaech’s Gabriel, the robber they’re looking for, meticulously plans his next job.
It’s this methodology that ends up the bulk of the film’s story, which is not the kind of assessment anyone would expect from a movie like Reprisal, starring Bruce Willis and Frank Grillo. And yet, it proves to be a welcome change. Again, it’s not exactly the most riveting cinematic game of cat and mouse ever capture on film, but it remains nonetheless watchable.
Instead, Reprisal proliferates out its action sequences, which in turn makes them more effective. Sure there are some of the usual pitfalls, subpar acting, questionable editing, and the lingering feeling that not everyone in front of or behind the camera is fully invested in the project, but here, they’re invested enough to keep you interested.
Director Brian A. Miller, who’s brought Willis in on a number of projects that, at a cursory glance, appear to be very similar, is competent in his efficiency. And though first-time screenwriter Bryce Hammons isn’t reinventing the wheel, either, the story never draws itself out for too long. Hell, it even provides some catharsis in its inevitably predictable outcome.
Maybe there’s more hidden, unpolished gems in that bargain bin after all.
Reprisal is out now on DVD, Blu-ray, and VOD