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‘Precious Cargo’ (2016) Review

‘Precious Cargo’ (2016) Review


Director: Max Adams
Writers: Max Adams, Paul V. Seetachitt
Stars: Bruce Willis, Claire Forlani, Mark-Paul Gosselaar


After a heist goes wrong, an unstable crime boss hunts down the sexy thief who let him down. To win back his trust, she recruits her ex-lover, an experienced crook, to steal a cargo of rare precious gems. But that’s only where things go from bad to very much worse.

After a brief introduction to conman and expert thief Jack (Mark-Paul Gosselaar), who cons a gunrunner and escapes with his life only with the help of a couple of co-horts, we meet Karen (Claire Forlani), who is trying to pull off a major million-dollar heist that crime lord Eddie (Bruce Willis) had been planning for a long time. Angry at his loss, he warns her that if she doesn’t come up with money he’s owed, he will kill her. With no other options, she turns to her old-flame Jack with a proposition that could save her and make a profit. Problem is, the job is another of Eddie’s schemes.

Directed by Max Adams, in his feature film debut, Precious Cargo is a Z-grade action thriller that strives only to be just that, despite a few known names and one major movie star, who is on screen for less time that it takes to read this review. The plot isn’t just well-worn, it’s straight-up thievery, even if it tries to hide it with what it might call homage. There is not an original idea to be found, from the stock characters and endless silly dialog to the action sequences, which are so generic it’s boring. 

Precious Cargo
Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Claire Forlani (Precious Cargo, 2016)

It’s hard to describe how bland and contrived this movie is and how much it thrives to be so. An early scene where Karen, Jack, and Jack’s new girlfriend, veterinarian Jenna (Lydia Hull), who just found out her boyfriend is a criminal, are on a speedboat running from Eddie’s men in other boats and jetskies. While the henchmen try to catch up, they fire endless rounds of machine gun and handgun fire where none find their target. All the while Jack and Karen bicker about nonsense that is meant to be amusing but comes off as ridiculous. There is no sense of suspense or danger and if you think that Jenna, who to this point has been angrily shouting (nagging) about what’s happening, will suddenly take out a bad guy in a ‘hilarious’ way, then, well, you’ve predicted the biggest ‘surprise’ in the movie.

Willis must have known from the script where this was going. He was in last year’s equally awful Extraction, written by Adams, and surly must have seen the similarities here. He is a cardboard character in this, a scowling, vanilla bad guy with nothing to offer but dime store novel one-liners and a penchant for showing up only when the plot needs him. Others don’t fare well either, with Forlani, a typically very good actress, seemingly trying to act like a B-movie starlet, over doing it and reading lines like she just got off the bus. Worse though is Jenna B. Kelly playing Logan, who may be a wonderful person, but here, as the sniper on the team, a bikini clad model with a sassy attitude and nothing but spite dripping from her mouth, is dreadful. There is a long history of buxom girls in terrible movies meant to be nothing more than eye candy, and if that is the intent, then Kelly is perfectly cast, speaking her lines with all acting talent of a wood plank, but it does nothing for the experience and only infuriates at how lazy the production is from start to finish. To be fair, she is swimming in a muck-laden pool where terrible acting is standard and female roles are either girls in swimsuits or . . . well, yeah. That.

There’s nothing wrong with low budget movies and many can entertain and even challenge. One could say I might be missing the point and that Precious Cargo (a title that hints at its superficiality) is just that, a tongue-in-cheek send up of heist movies, but I sincerely doubt it. The Fast and the Furious franchise is also about a group of bad guys who turn good-ish, and while that series found its mark with fun characters and a sense of detachment, here, we’re asked to care for bad people simply because badder people want them dead, and it doesn’t work. Everything from the direction to the painfully redundant, obvious score, to the abundance of stock characters (there is a couple who are, of course, ‘amusingly’ viciously at each other’s throat all the time but at the first sign of danger leap into each other’s arms with overly-exaggerated feigns of worry because they really, truly love each other), to the absurd lack of law enforcement (there are so many shootouts in broad daylight, the sound of gunfire will eventually cause headaches, yet not one cop ever arrives), there is no joy in the process and thus deserves to be forgotten.

The end of the film, as the credits role (this is by no means a spoiler) first sees Jack’s team video messaging him (because people do that) with one being a shot of dog feces. Make of that what you will. It then cuts to a long line of outtakes and ‘bloopers’ of which seriously, none are funny or even revealing. Why are they there? Interestingly, Willis is noticeably absent from all of them. That’s probably because for the hour he was most likely on set, he nailed all five of his lines without a hitch. What a pro.


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