1 out of 5
Directed by: Mike Burns
Oof. I realize the title is… – well, wait, I think the title is meant to be wordplay on ‘out of depth,’ but I’d think it’s also an unintentional loose tie to a movie we all rather know well: Die Hard. While Out of Death is not really a Bruce Willis movie, but rather another in the string of Emmet Furla productions that give a name star a paycheck to put their face on the film and show up for a day. I could criticize the practice, but monetarily, you could say it works – I’m here, after all – and gives film crews and other stars opportunity to get some more work under their belt or earn some dollars as well.
Bruce himself has been in a ton of these things by this point, and if EFO productions can be rated on a scale that rarely, if ever, goes above ‘good,’ with most in the bad and terrible range, you can also evaluate Bruce’s engagement in the movies from “reading his lines” to “moderate.” Out of Death, unfortunately, hits at the lower end of both of those meters, with this actually hitting new, er, depths for Willis – in all sincerity, it actually feels like something’s wrong with him in some of his scenes, as he’s unable to maintain consistent eyelines (to the point I’d almost suspect he was comped in, but it looks too good for the likely low budget of the movie) and his line delivery of even the most basic phrases stumbles, and is incredibly poor. He seems to be alert for maybe one or two shots, but otherwise, you really feel like you’re watching an old man, nervous in front of a camera and trying to remember what he’s supposed to say. It’s a tough watch.
I have few words to say about the movie itself, but let’s acknowledge what’s these types of no-budget, fast-productions require: lots of compromise, and thereby the skill of the director and crew to piece together a movie despite that. Director Mike Burns doesn’t go for anything flashy (excepting one excessive and janky CG shot…), and I’d say makes good use of what must’ve only been a small handful of locations. Peter Holland’s cinematography goes for something rather naturalistic and folksy, not too stylized. A lot of these EFO movies try to doll things up in some way, and it’s a lipstick-on-a-pig scenario; it’s better that these two kept things pretty straight forward. The music is also pretty good, or at least interesting – Burns co-handled it with Jacob Bunton, and while it’s amusingly tonally way off at points, sounding playful during serious scenes, the folk-pluckings sound unique for these types of productions, which normally use very generic action-y scores and stings. There’s also the limitations of the big star you’re including, with whom you likely only have one day to get all your coverage. Unfortunately, Willis’ character was required to be in a fair amount of the movie, so cue a lot of scenes of someone shot from behind, or running, dressed in the same garb and bald head as Bruce.
With those acknowledgements out of the way, Out of Death still, simply, isn’t a good movie. It’s a “story” strung together from, essentially, assumptions: that our opening scenes of a cop arranging a drug deal, then calling their superior officer when the deal goes wrong, establish all we need to know about the plot. So when “photojournalist” Jaime King happens to see and photograph the deal, we also understand that the crooked-cops-vs.-innocent manhunt will be the bulk of the movie. Willis’ character is, natch, a retired cop, retiring in a nearby lake house, out on a walk, and thus gets involved. Include every eye-rolling trope in which characters drop the exact item they need while running, or get crazy stabbed in the arm but are up and using it the next scene, and then add in almost offensively illogical events thereafter.
You can watch some EFO movies as time passers, but Out of Death is very far away from that mark. It has to edit some important scenes up to the front of the movie as a cold open, almost as a promise that some thing eventually happens, and it’s divided into “chapters” to further stretch out its thin plot with a suggestion of more purpose than it has. The various evil cops do a good job of acquitting themselves, but Jaime King’s role is so generic (like a summary you’d pick from out of a hat) that it’s hard to tell what the actress had to work with, and as mentioned above, this is Bruce’s worst outing of these types yet.