By: John M Jerva
I don’t know how many times I can say it but I’ll say it here to officially start my review of the new WWII action-thriller Hell Hath No Fury. Former stunt professionals turned filmmakers are the best at making action movies. Having cut their teeth in one of the hardest aspects of filmmaking, stunts, these men and women know how to execute action set pieces and definitely know what the audience wants from the viewing experience. Having been in front of the camera doing it, these professionals develop some of the most exhilarating films working behind the camera.
Filmmaker Jesse V Johnson is top tier in this regard as he has been doing it for so long and he is a master craftsman of indie action cinema. The action isn’t the only thing that Johnson is concerned about while he makes his films. The story has to matter and the characters have to be essential and the audience has to care about them to compliment the carnage and mayhem on screen. It has to mean something and it can’t be action for action sake.
Johnson is back after a long hiatus and it’s a welcome sight for sore eyes as the action maestro switches it up and delivers a WWII epic like no other. There have been countless films made throughout history about the conflict but Hell Hath No Fury is a tight, taut character study of damaged individuals who are only looking to survive at the end of a war that has essentially taken their souls.
The film starts out as the war is ending and Marie (Nina Bergman) has been branded a traitor for sympathizing with the Germans. Marie has been involved with ruthless SS officer Von Bruckner (Daniel Bernhardt) but her motives to this point are unclear. Is she a true traitor, a soldier working undercover to bring down the German war machine, or simply just a French woman trying to survive? That is the question and one that Johnson fleshes out with meaty dramatic scenes and bloodthirsty war action.
Marie is rescued by allied forces but it’s with a catch. They know that she has knowledge of where German gold is buried and these damaged men want their cut before they rotate back to the world. The squad is led by a stalwart Maitland (Louis Mandylor) and he is not messing around as he sees Marie as his chance for a better future.
Marie, of course, reluctantly agrees, and she leads the men to a remote cemetery where she left the fortune and supposedly the body of Von Bruckner. There the stage is set for a deadly game of cat and mouse as Marie and the soldiers try to up hand each other and greed eventually rears it’s ugly head.
At the center of Hell Hath No Fury is Nina Bergman who plays Marie. She plays the role with such stoicism and calculating unpredictability that we are never really sure what she is up to. It’s a fierce tour de force performance and one that I think should be a serious contender for an Oscar. The film lives and breathes through Marie and Bergman hits a grand slam in her presence and performance.
Daniel Bernhardt has always had a powering presence in his movies and here playing Von Bruckner, he definitely brings his dramatic A game to the table. Best know for his physical skills and action unrivaled, Bernhardt proves something that I and his legion of fans have known for years. He can flat out act just as good as he can deliver a devastating flying side kick. I’ll always be a fan of the star’s action abilities but it’s great to see him switch it up. He plays Von Bruckner as a morally grey character. Yes he’s a German but his character has more layers than that and that is refreshing.
Louis Mandylor always brings the gravitas to any movie he is in and as the jaded allied soldier Maitland, he scores again with a powerful performance. His character isn’t necessarily good or bad he’s just extremely jaded from all the years of killing. He makes questionable choices and actions but his dynamic is deep and layered as well and he has some truly polarizing and memorable scenes with Bergman.
Above all, I was extremely excited to see Dominiquie Vandenberg in a film once again. His French resistance fighter is a sad and damaged character as well. It’s a heartbreaking presence in the film as he is also in love with Marie but it is unfortunate a one sided relationship. Vandenberg’s strengths are both physical and psychological here and his arc is one I would have liked to see more of.
The first half of the movie is a slow burn in the truest sense and unlike most of Johnson’s movies, it takes a while for the action to kick in. There are a few blood soaked skirmishes in the first half but it is essentially the character study of damaged souls that is on display here. It’s not black or white by any stretch of the imagination but it is this morally grey factor that is the true heart of the movie. There may not be countless rounds of ammo spent until the finale but the dialogue whizzes through the air and is just as sharp and deadly as any rifle round.
Fans will be pleased to know that Johnson rewards the audience with a signature and traditional climatic firefight that is nail biting and ferocious. The violence hits you over the head like blunt force trauma and it is a no win situation for all involved. War is hell and Johnson does his best to remind us that there are gruesome and bloody consequences that comes out of war. There are a surplus of vicious killings throughout and it is once again a glorious and practical approach to the 80’s and 90’s when special effects were done live on set.
Overall, Hell Hath No Fury is an unapologetic war movie with dire consequences. It is raw and ugly and nobody wins when all is said and done. The movie is a powder keg of raw emotion and fierce combat action that only Jesse can deliver.
Boasting a sensational cast including Nina Bergman, Louis Mandylor and Daniel Bernhardt, HELL HATH NO FURY is a gritty and brutal character set piece infused with bloody and bombastic war action. It will without a doubt leave an impression on you after the final credits roll. It might not be as action packed as some of Johnson’s other entries like Avengement and Triple Threat but the strength of the movie here lies within the performances of the sensational cast. It’s a haunting tribute to a part of history that will never be forgotten.