By: Jacob Bloodee Jacob Babcock
Released in 2017 “Acts of Vengeance” starred the accomplished Antonio Banderas as “Frank Valera”, a hotshot arrogant lawyer yet distant and self centered father whose wife and daughter are murdered. The police are uncooperative so he trains his body and takes a vow of silence until he exacts his vengeance.
This was directed by Isaac Florentine who is responsible for helming some of Scott Adkins’ best work including the Undisputed series, the two Ninja films, etc not to mention the overlooked Dolph Lundgren flick Bridge of Dragons. By many accounts he’s got one of the best to sit in the directors chair today in the genre. Thus you are guaranteed a keen eye, an attention to detail and general effort when it comes to the fight scenes and you get it. Not to mention Florentine also makes a cameo in the movie as a martial arts master. The fight scenes are nicely choreographed and shot steadily with Banderas putting his all into doing most of it himself and the movie benefits because of that. The moves aren’t as high flying and fancy as a Boyka flick but they didn’t and shouldn’t have been and Florentine knew that.
Antonio Banderas also gives a very good acting performance that is subtle in its delivery but is able to communicate a lot even if his expression seems minimal on a surface level. He truly brings an authenticity to the role that otherwise may not have been there. In fact Florentine has credited Banderas in even helping the film to get pushed through and made due to him signing on alone. The ever growing in popularity Karl Urban co-stars and does some fine work as a character you’re not entirely sure of. I appreciated the dual conflict that was portrayed when you find out what’s actually going on though I do wish there was more of a dialogue driven scene between the two men before they both started trying to kill each other. It still added an existing layer that bumps up the simplistic plot at least a notch. I can’t honestly say however that anyone really stood out acting wise besides Banderas which is alright as the films success hinges on and was completely focused on him anyway.
Although the one scene the late Robert Forster was in was memorable too. It bothered me as I think he should have been incorporated into more of the story as his role as Valera’s now deceased wife’s father seemed like it could have been a key and interesting element to have once Banderas begins his personal mission and changes as much as he does. Yet Forster is only in one singular scene at the beginning so it felt like a waste. I did like Cristina Serafini as his Banderas’s wife while she was briefly in the film and young Lillian Blankenship didn’t do a bad job either despite the father/daughter relationship being sort of cliche when we do get to see them briefly bond.
Paz Velga played a woman named “Alma” who knows the neighborhood and ends up helping Valera when he is wounded. I found her to be kind of one note though and didn’t feel her character was really necessary at all except to maybe give Valera the sense that he could again have a purpose and life outside of his vengeance. Not to mention to set up for the somewhat oddly “happy” bow wrapped ending.
This is definitely a story you’ve seen done a million times to and it doesn’t bring anything new but I did appreciate that they showed Banderas’s character having to train his body tediously (in a good way) and fully prepare instead of him magically being able to take down so many men based on grief and rage alone. It added a sense of realism that I didn’t expect and is something so many bigger films don’t even care to think of.
I know this was a personal film for Florentine who unfortunately lost his wife and more during its production. I could tell their was a real care there and he did give it all time to sink in as we got the time to sort of live in Banderas’s Valera’s head a bit despite its short runtime, there was a patience to the story. Unfortunately I did find the pacing a little slow to unravel what was never really a big mystery for us the audience to begin with. Thus it felt like it meandered a bit and some of the actual proceedings, events and culmination rang a little hollow for me and I lost some engagement at times despite Banderas’s strong centered performance and the skillfully done fight scenes.
This is still a film very much worth seeing if you’re a fan of Antonio Banderas and it’s still probably Isaac Florentine’s most character driven and introspective film. We’ve seen it before but it’s not badly done at all and since making my initial post about it on my Instagram and then buffing it up a bit for here, I have warmed up to it even more. I’d even go so far as to call this to be overall Isaac Florentine’s best film as it had terrific fights that occurred naturally along with a specific character focus.