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It seems like aging former action stars are lining up to hop onboard the trend of getting back to beating down bad guys, even though Charles Bronson was doing it way back in 1974. And while times have changed, plots have not and the lone man against all odds continues to dominate the genre, even in low budget indie projects starring an icon of that same decade.
Lou Ferrigno has long been working in television and movies–for decades–though it is his debut as the legendary green superhero, Hulk, that remains his most memorable role, one that has come to define his career ever since. While he’s experienced a bit of a resurgence of late on TV, he’s back on the big screen of sorts with this indie action thriller, bringing some of the musclebound fisticuffs he was known for but playing it bit like the Hulk’s renowned alter ego, subdued and dark in a film that may be lacking a big budget but not a good story and a few great performances.
John Bradley (Ferrigno) is a troubled vet having trouble dealing with civilian life with the haunts of his past keeping the corners in shadow. He heads to the UK to spend some time with his estranged daughter Jane (Tania Staite) and granddaughter and almost as soon as he arrives, gets mixed up in a drug war battle, and when attacked by some thugs, takes a few down, drawing the ire of a kingpin named Razor (Jerry Anderson), who takes it to extremes, having Jane brutally raped and blinded and her daughter murdered. And just like Bronson, when you mess with the family, you get a death wish.
Directed by Ara Paiaya, who also co-wrote and produced, Instant Death rides on solid, well-worn tracks, keeping true to a number of tropes the genre laid down in dozens of films that came before, from inept cronies that fall like harvested wheat, to women in jeopardy, to phone calls between heroes and (slow-clapping) villains, to higher-ups who help on one side and those who pull strings on the other. It’s classic Revenge 101, and yet, that doesn’t mean it’s not done well, especially considering the limited money to get it made. Paiaya keeps things zipping along fast, and builds plenty of decent tension, and while Bradley is reduced to a one-man army with no equal, it is the supporting players who deliver best.
That’s mostly praise for Anderson, who looks a lot like a beefed up Ray Winstone and is a terrifying madman, an egomaniac with violence his only weapon, leading a cadre of men who stand behind him in fear and loyalty. He barks and bites with ferocity and is, no matter how close he might be molded to be like others, a convincing bad guy. The aforementioned assault on Bradley’s daughter and granddaughter is a disturbing scene of cruelty that makes it easy to get behind our hero while at the same time, harkening back to the controversy of a similar moment in Death Wish (Read More on the impact of Death Wish), a film that by now you can guess feels like kin.
Ferrigno does well too, though at sixty-five and still considerably buff, lacks the fluidity some of the latter fight scene seem to require, though taken for what it is, maintains some authenticity. His bits of drama ring mostly true but it’s clear that Paiaya is more interested in getting on with the confrontations than the relationships, and at only 88 minutes, there’s not much time to build any real bonds.
Instant Death is a short but exciting indie thriller, and if anything, succeeds at precisely what it intends, delivering some action and chaos around a very familiar story. Well worth a look for fans of the genre, this is easily a kickstarter for a possible franchise.
Movie description: Instant Death is a 2017 action thriller about a former Special Forces soldier drawn into vicious gangland war when his family gets caught in the line of fire.
Director(s): Ara Paiaya
Actor(s): Lou Ferrigno, Jerry Anderson, Tania Staite
Genre: Action, Thriller