Review: Bruce Willis Stars in HARD KILL but it’s Jesse Metcalfe Who Steals the Show in the Above Average DTV Actioner

By: John M Jerva

REVIEW: Hard Kill

STARRING: Jesse Metcalfe, Lala Kent, Natalie Eva Marie, Texas Battle, Sergio Rizzuto, Swen Temmel and Bruce Willis

DIRECTED BY: Matt Eskandari

Bruce Willis and Jesse Metcalfe in Hard Kill (2020)
OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: When billionaire tech CEO Donovan Chalmers (Bruce Willis) hires a team of mercenaries to protect a lethal piece of technology, security expert and team leader Derek Miller (Jesse Metcalfe) finds himself in a deadly showdown with an old enemy. The mission becomes even higher risk when Chalmers’ daughter is kidnapped by a terrorist group who will stop at nothing to obtain the tech. Miller and his team must race against the clock to save her and protect the fate of the human race before it’s too late.

Editor’s Note: This review was done in August of 2020 well before Bruce Willis’ health issues were brought to the public eye. I have adjusted some of my statements but have left most of the original review intact.

THE REVIEW: What can anyone say about Bruce Willis at this point that hasn’t been said already. Even though 9 out of 10 times, the actor who once was super action hero John McClane, is now the king of cameos in direct to video action films. I’m not going to dwell on that as we all have in the past with light of what we all have learned in recent weeks, but I will say that I have enjoyed some of the films that Willis has done with his tenor with Emmett/Furla films. There’s a lot more coming too so get ready world. For every Reprisal, which I thought was blah although Frank Grillo was awesome in it like he is in everything, there is a Marauders which featured Willis in a bit role once again where he was top billed. It was actors like Christopher Meloni who sold the film and made it better than average. Willis is like Steven Seagal at this point as his films are elevated by the supporting cast around him and even though he’s not in them that much, the rest of the cast brings it home from time to time.

With that I give you Willis’ newest DTV offering titled Hard Kill. I love the title because it just screams 80’s action and if it was made in that decade, it would have starred a leaner and meaner Seagal. Willis stars or should I say co-stars in the actioner from director Matt Eskandari who has worked with Willis before in the recent efforts Trauma Center and Survive the Night. Say one thing about Eskandari, he seems to get the best output from Willis these days just like filmmaker Keoni Waxman has with Seagal in the past. With Hard Kill, Willis is given more to do and instead of just sleepwalking through the film, he actually shows some emotion this time around. Once again, this is John McClane we’re talking about. Seems like an eternity ago.

This time Willis plays former soldier turned billionaire CEO tech Donovan Chalmers whose company has developed a nasty little piece of tech that will change the playing field forever. In order to ensure that said tech is protected, Chalmers hires an elite team of Mercs led by one Derek Miller, played by Jesse Metcalfe who starred in Escape Plan 2: Hades with Stallone. Miller and his team of pros including Sasha (Natalie Eva Marie), Nick Fox (Texas Battle), and Dash Hawkins (love that name!) played by Swen Temmel are looking for the next big payday and here it is with a bow wrapped around it. The job is simple, protect the tech and perform a supposed coosh gig at the same time.

Unfortunately, someone from Miller’s past, the terrorist named The Pardoner (seriously, that’s his name people) and his own army of killers want the tech at all costs and even kidnap Chalmer’s daughter Eva (Layla Kent) making things even more complicated. The Pardoner and Miller have gone head-to-head before and it resulted in Miller getting a bullet in his back for his troubles, so payback is on like Donkey Kong. Now an abandoned warehouse is ground zero for all-out war as Miller and his team go up against The Pardoner (I mean seriously, that’s his name, I’m not kidding!) and his Mercs with the fate of the tech and Chalmer’s daughter hanging on the line.

When one watches this film, you know that it’s lower budgeted and it follows a current trend of movies where all the action is confined to one area or building. Here it’s a warehouse but it somehow works for what the filmmakers are trying to accomplish and even though 90% of the flick takes place here, it’s got some pretty entertaining action sequences and the cast is better than average at the same time. This is also a byproduct of COVID where filmmakers are looking for the easiest and safest ways to make movies. We’ve seen this plot dozens of times before but here it’s got great throwback feel to it and it lives up to its 80’s title.

Once again, Willis is top billed but it’s Metcalfe who really shines as Miller and he gets to have the majority of the fun and he excels in the action scenes. Metcalfe isn’t normally known for action but just like Escape Plan 2, he rises to the occasion and makes his portrayal of a former soldier turned mercenary leader credible. Let’s face it, we will never see the larger-than-life action heroes of the 80’s again but Metcalfe brings a sense of realism to his action hero status and does the action genre proud. His shining moment comes towards the end when, with only knife in hand, he dishes out some rather impressive kills that Stallone and Willis himself can be proud of.

An honorable mention goes out to Natalie Eva Marie who plays Sasha, one of Miller’s teammates, and here Marie gets to deliver some female centric punishment as she plays just as rough as the boys do. Besides Metcalfe, Marie gets to have the most fun in terminating the baddies with extreme prejudice. It’s also important to note that Marie is a professional wrestler, so she is more than comfortable in the film’s many action sequences.

Like I stated before, Willis shows a lot more emotion here and gets more to do at the same time besides just sitting behind a desk. Willis gets to play off with Metcalfe and the team and even gets in on the action although it’s a far cry from his Die Hard days. At one time, there was talk of Willis reprising his role of John McClane but I feel that ship has sailed. I think this is the most we are going to get out of Bruce from now on.

The storyline is cliche as hell from Miller’s bad past with the antagonist to the moment where one of the members of Miller’s team betrays them (yep, you see that coming a mile away) so don’t expect Hard Kill to reinvent the wheel. There’s nothing new to see her folks but the film is saved but some decent action and wonderfully over the top acting. The Pardoner isn’t the greatest villain ever, but he serves his purpose and the showdown between himself, and Miller is unceremoniously cut short which was a shame. It’s OK though because it’s Willis who interferes with the outcome so if it has to happen then by all means let McClane do it.

Hard Kill is as advertised, and genre fans should realize that this is a low budget DTV film so best to turn your brain off and just enjoy it for what it is which is a B level action flick that wants so much to be your friend. Willis gets more screen time and more to do but it’s Metcalfe that steals the show and I for one would love to see the actor play more roles like this in the future. There’s firepower and fisticuffs aplenty and you’d be hard pressed to find something better these days. You’ll probably forget about a film like this after viewing but during said viewing it does entertain even if it’s on a smaller scale. With major films being delayed left and right, movies like Hard Kill are here to keep us entertained for the time being. You could do worse.

VERDICT: 3 Out of 5 Stars

Worth a Watch for Metcalfe’s scene stealing turn as this week’s latest DTV action hero.

Hard Kill is now available on Blu-Ray, DVD, Digital and VOD from Vertical Entertainment

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