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It’s to the point now where a movie like Marauders is sadly expected. It’s not like anyone is watching this believing it’s going to be great. Remember when movies with actors like Bruce Willis in the cast made you believe that? When did I start watching movies knowing it was going to be bad but worse, lazily accepting that as fact? I want to like Marauders. The title alone is one ripe for a great film. This is not it.
Violent caper and heist movies are nothing new. The great ones, like Michael Mann‘s brilliant Heat, understand that the acts of violence aren’t what make them memorable. It’s the characters who perform them. In the recent Triple 9, a movie that had a fantastic premise, we were left with a similar problem that also wholly breaks Marauders. It’s a flat, derivative film that is not just dumb, it’s numbingly so. There is not challenge in the experience. Line are drawn so heavily and colors filled-in to perfectly, there is no joy for the viewer. Perhaps the genre is played out. This year’s The Last Heist added a serial killer to the mix but even that didn’t make it better. Marauders wants to say something, but its voice is rendered mute by a loud, uninteresting, all-to-familiar experience.
It begins with heavily armed scary-masked robbers who storm a bank and use recorded simulated voices to give direction. So, okay, Technology. They promise that they are are stealing the bank’s money, not the customer’s and that they will not kill anyone. Naturally, they kill somebody. The bank manager to be specific. With a shogun, up close and personal. The scene is a chaotic string of quick cuts and spastic camera work that loses all of the energy it’s meant to create, simply because it’s exhausting to watch. It’s the first of many bombastic, explosive, entirely boring sequences to come.
Next we meet Hubert (Willis), the high-powered, living in the glass expanse of the top floors, owner of the bank. Packed into the safety deposit boxes of his banks are the untidy secrets and lies of many political and city higher-ups, so you can already guess now what the motivations of the thieves are and who the real bad guys are. Should I have started that sentence with a spoilers warning? No. You’re smarter than this movie thinks you are.
Director Steven C. Miller, who worked with Willis on his previous film Extraction, is not a man without talent. He has a good eye for action and stages tension well, but it all falls apart with a tired, clichéd script and a desperate lack of creativity or imagination. It would be easy to say this is just a cash grab, a quick and easy VOD movie, but I don’t want to believe that is happening. Perhaps that’s naive. I look at co-stars Christopher Meloni, who plays FBI Agent Jonathan Montgomery and his partners Stockwell (Dave Bautista) and Wells (Adrian Grenier) and I see glimmers of what could have been. Meloni has always proven himself worthy of better parts, and while it’s hard not to be reminded of his television past here, he at least brings some humpf to the character. Even Bautista bulbously lingers in shots with great effectiveness. But a subplot with a local cop (Johnathon Schaech) and his dying wife seem like a screenwriter’s contractual agreement.
When we at last arrive at the obligatory twisty, shocking, finale, it only serves to confound. Plot and premise are dispatched without much concern for logic, but that’s not the point. Neither it seems is the messy message that writer Michael Cody is trying to make. Marauders is a generic, soon-to-be forgotten procedural that should have put more stock in its characters, especially the riveting Meloni. Willis is making a career shift it seems in appearing in these films, but it’s a bit disappointing to see the edge worn so dull. I like VOD action thrillers. I loved them before they were VOD. I used to scavenger my local video store for these kinds of movies and had great fun with most. What they lacked in budget they made up for in passion. Marauders has no passion.
Director: Steven C. Miller
Writers: Michael Cody (story), Michael Cody
Stars: Bruce Willis, Christopher Meloni, Dave Bautista, Adrian Grenier