By: Anthony Francis
Vengeance thrillers. This is the type of sub-genre that will never go out of style.
Many actors have done well in this kind of film. From Charles Bronson to Kevin Costner and from Uma Thurman to Nic Cage, many big actors have taken on the bloody tough guy/gal role and taken their respective careers to badass heights.
When one thinks of an actor to portray a “lone wolf” violently taking on big city criminals, the actor that is perhaps furthest from anyone’s mind would be Thomas Ian Nichols.
In Brian A. Metcalf’s “Adverse”, Nichols plays Ethan, a rideshare driver with a past who is drawn into a criminal underworld and forced to confront the rage within him after his sister Mia gets in deep with drug dealers.
In the opening moments, a mysterious stranger gets into his car and gives Ethan a bad vibe.
The great Mickey Rourke plays the stranger who turns out to be the crime boss who ends up employing Ethan after a bizarre incident with one of Rourke’s lackies.
After strong-arming his boss (Sean Astin) for back pay, Ethan tries to clear his sister’s debt. When this fails to work and Mia is kidnapped and murdered, Ethan digs deep into his inner violence and goes after his vengeance, while working with Rourke and falling deeper into the dark criminal underworld.
Writer/director Brian A. Metcalf is walking in Michael Mann territory with this L.A.-set film, as he designs the first half as Crime Thriller and the second as a bloody revenge flick with some hard-edged action moments.
Metcalf’s screenplay is contrived and contains some rather badly written directed moments but some of the dialogue is solid and Nichols and Rourke make it work.
Even in his worst films, Rourke is always watchable and, lest we forget, the actor is one of the greats.
Rourke’s crime boss is dying of cancer, carries a staff, and takes pain medicine that gives him headaches. Ol’ Mickey gives this one his all and prevents his role from being cliched.
As the actor has done in films such as Sean Penn’s “The Pledge” and Stallone’s “The Expendables”, Rourke finds one scene to take control of and let loose with the kind of soulful and intense acting that makes him the powerhouse that he is.
Rourke’s moment comes when he sits with Nichols in a diner and begins to improvise a story about how he never wanted to be a bad guy and had a shot at being a baseball player. Amid this dark and violent film, Mickey Rourke brings a moment of humanity and we can’t take our eyes off of him.
Ethan begins to get revenge for his sister’s death by slowly decimating Rourke’s business (and everyone that works for him), tearing through them all with a tire iron and, eventually, a pistol.
In the film’s best non-Mickey Rourke moment, Metcalfe follows Nichols through a warehouse as he lays waste to everyone, the camera tracking him at every move. There are no cuts until Ethan reaches the end of the line. The blood flies and the music swells. It is a great sequence.
Derrick Cohan’s cinematography gives the film an effective (if low budget) Neo-Noir vibe while Alex Kharlamov’s score is sometimes right-on and sometimes too much.
Penelope Ann Miller and especially the great Lou Diamond Phillips have some good moments in important supporting roles. I would have liked to see more of their characters.
Nichols does a good job as Ethan. He guides the film through its dramatic arcs and proves himself worthy in the film’s action moments.
Metcalf’s film is not perfect. It can be structurally aloof in parts and an undercooked and an unnecessary pseudo-romance with a girl named Chloe is moot.
As is, “Adverse” is a consistently enthralling and entertaining low budget Crime film with a few bursts of violent action in the finale.
Not a great film but much more than serviceable with many fine moments.