By: John M Jerva
Indie action cinema is certainly a curious beast especially for one that runs an action film website. There are countless lower budgeted films that hit DVD and VOD on a weekly basis and to be perfectly honest, most of them are not worth your time. I do admire these filmmakers that virtually make something out of nothing and I’m always impressed by how much blood, sweat and tears they put into it. Indie films have a massive uphill battle to get made and that right there is a victory in itself.
With that in mind, I bring your attention to Uncork’d Entertainment’s latest indie action offering which comes in the form of The Handler. The action pic which hails from Michael Matteo Rossi, who also wrote the screenplay, tells the high-octane story of an ex-soldier named Ryker Dune, played by Chris Levine, (that has to be one of the greatest action hero names ever) who goes to work for a local mobster named Vinnie Fiore (Michael Pashan) when he needs money to help support his family. Unfortunately, Dune has had enough of this life and he wants out. Unfortunate for Ryker but fortunate for action fans, it’s not that simple and Vinnie has more use for Ryker and basically tells him no. Uh-oh, I smell a confrontation on the horizon.
Ryker doesn’t accept that answer and proceeds to throw his next assignment out of protest which doesn’t sit well with Vinnie. If Ryker watched enough action films with this premise, he would have known what the consequences would be but alas his conscience has gotten the better of him and now he must hold up in a safe house that he’s staying at and must defend himself from a horde of hired mercenaries who descend upon him with one goal in mind…terminate Ryker with extreme prejudice.
You have to love films like The Handler as this is a perfect example of how a filmmaker has done something with nothing. Yes, we have the standard over the top acting and the shady visual effects including CGI muzzle flashes and blood squibs but you won’t be bored with the movie that clocks in at a brisk 80 minutes in running time. The fisticuffs is plentiful as well and even though some of the fight choreography was questionable, it still entertains and it is literally non-stop.
Chris Levine headlines the film playing Ryker Dune and he does one stand up job in the lead. I love the fact that Levine isn’t your traditional buff action hero cliche as he’s a man that looks like most. I don’t have to point out that most bad asses especially in the military and special forces don’t look like Stallone and Schwarzenegger but they’re some of the most dangerous men on the planet. Levine is virtually in almost every scene and he has his physical work cut out for him as he runs a marathon of shoot outs and beatdowns from beginning to end. Levine is solid when the action sequences go down and I, for one, would love to see more of him in my indie action cinema in the future.
Like I said, the action is almost non-stop and there’s enough violence and brutality to fill the time and Rossi keeps the pace of the movie tight with an altercation every couple of minutes. Vinnie sends everyone after Ryker and it makes no difference as both men and women throwdown with Ryker with our hero becoming the human equivalent of the Energizer bunny. The action does get bloody and it earns its R rating with some pretty decent kills throughout.
A few minor gripes I had from the movie is that all of the siege on Ryker takes place in the middle of the day and Ryker’s safe house is smack dab in the middle of a secluded neighborhood. You can clearly see other residencies around the house so it makes no sense why no one around would hear the endless sounds of automatic gunfire and death filling the air and proceed to call 9-1-1. It gets pretty loud but I guess the neighbors are used to this sort of thing. I digress.
Another sore spot is the ending is kind of abrupt and a little underwhelming. I feel that the budget was spent for the other scenes and when it came time to filming the climax, there was nothing left. The movie reminded of the Scott Adkins actioner El Gringo. That film was loaded with non-stop carnage throughout and the final confrontation was less than stellar. This is a minor gripe, however, as most of the movie is action drenched so all is forgiven.
Overall, if you’re looking for something new and something in the indie action category, you can’t go wrong with The Handler. It has the look and feel of some of the titles that hit back in the day and Chris Levine plays a solid action lead and is pretty kick ass in the numerous set pieces. The action is relentless and violent and the empty-handed action is balanced quite nicely with the firefights giving genre fans a little bit of everything. If you can look past the low budget and minor issues then this is a fun action flick to fill the time and is tailor made for a Saturday night viewing with friends. The Handler is definitely an action movie that delivers something out of nothing.