Unemployed engineer Stanley Hill (John Travolta) witnesses the murder of his wife Vivian (Rebecca De Mornay), who was attacked by thugs in a parking garage. Wracked with guilt, Stanley is haunted by the image of Vivian dying in his arms. When Detective Gibson (Sam Trammell) and other corrupt police officers are unable to bring the killers to justice, Stanley turns to his old friend Dennis (Christopher Meloni) and decides to take matters into his own hands. It is only then that Stanley and Dennis are found to have a mysterious past that, until now, they have kept very well hidden. As they inflict their revenge, those involved in the cover up realise that Stanley and Dennis are more dangerous than they could ever have imagined...
Tell me if this sounds familiar. A husband is forced to watch as his beautiful wife gets killed, and because of a corrupt police force, has no other choice but to take the law in his own hands, seeking to find his wife's killer and get his revenge. If that sounds familiar to you, then congratulations, you have seen every Mel Gibson action thriller from the 90s. This is a movie so bad and riddled with clichés that it comes out the other side into self-parody.
What has happened to John Travolta? Granted, I wasn't alive for ‘Saturday Night Fever’ and ‘Grease,’ but I was of prime age for ‘Pulp Fiction,’ ‘Face Off’ (one of my personal faves), and ‘Broken Arrow.’ As much as I love those films, I feel like he eventually became desperate for roles and reverted back to trying to do the action/thriller movies that were his bread and butter in the 90s. But Travolta is getting older, and instead of high profile action flicks that showcase his acting range, he has films like ‘I Am Wrath’.
Travolta sleepwalks through his performance as Stanley Hill, a guy who is forced to watch as his wife is murdered in front of him. Unfortunately, no one he talks to in the justice department seems to want to help him. In fact, even after Stanley identifies the killer in their custody, he gets put back on the streets. That is because the investigators assigned to his case are on the cut from Lemi K (Paul Solan), an insanely crazy drug kingpin; he is so over the top that he not only threatens the people he wants killed, but also their families, and their dogs too! But what they don't know is that Stanley is ex Black Ops and together with his friend Dennis (Christopher Meloni), they will kick ass, take names, and find the killers who killed Stanley’s wife.
The movie starts out wanting to be a statement on gang violence in our society, but quickly drops that politically relevant message for the typical police corruption cliché. Let's boil this down. An ex Black Ops guy gets the rug pulled out from under him by a couple of street thugs who kill his wife, and the cops are in bed with a loser gang boss, appearing to take orders from him… that is until a ludicrous end reveal that uncovers who is really in charge. How the street thugs even got the upper hand on an ex Black Ops officer is beyond my comprehension.
Thankfully this movie also has hilarious action scenes that clearly are put in to disguise the fact that their leads never could pull off action, and absolutely can't now. Picture a revenge flick with 300 slo-mo action scenes. In one scene, when a thug goes to break Dennis's legs with a bat, the slo-mo kicks in and he deflects it with his shin, only breaking the bat…. not his shin. Embarrassing chase scenes happen throughout where a clearly winded John Travolta can't even keep up with a random street thug despite all his “training.” Travolta is obviously disinterested in playing this role and drones his way through it causing the hilarity to ensue even further. There is a certain matter of fact way he slugs through this plot that almost hits the ‘so bad its good’ level.
Travolta plummets down to Nicholas Cage status in this by the numbers action/thriller flick that puts almost no effort forward. But unlike Nicholas Cage’s better roles, Travolta doesn't put his all into this, giving an over the top, insane performance. This movie does have its unintentionally funny moments, but that can't save this film from being mind-numbingly rote and predictable.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Status
Lionsgate brings ‘I Am Wrath’ to Blu-ray with a slip cover box that opens up to a single BD-25 disc with an Ultraviolet code on the opposite side of the case. Once the Blu-ray starts, there are a series of skippable theatrical trailers that lead to a very stock menu.
‘I Am Wrath’ sets its sights onto Blu-ray with a 1080P AVC encode that is exactly what you would expect. Framed at a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, this transfer wasn't made to impress, it was made for efficiency. Clarity is decent without reaching for success in any way, and detail work ranges from marginally good in certain scenes to leaving me wanting more in other darker scenes.
The main problem comes from its black levels. Now, revenge flicks like this take place primarily at night, but what comes with that is certain shots or scenes that have crushing black levels and some unwanted film grain. This is definitely the case in the scene where Stanley gets knocked to the ground and his wife is killed; that is the worst instance in the transfer, though it happens throughout to a lesser effect.
Much like the film itself, it just aims to coast along and be a run of the mill revenge thriller. I see tones of transfers that want to be dark, gritty, and dimly lit with the same issues as this transfer. If this film would have just put a little effort into its visual style, then I would not only be giving this transfer a higher score, but probably a higher overall film score as well. As it stands, this is a paint by numbers transfer that really isn't concerned with wowing its audience.
‘I Am Wrath’ guns its way for Blu-ray with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track that, while not reinventing the wheel, is the best thing this movie has going for it. The score of the film is a simple but effective one, and it is showcased nicely here. Front speakers as well as rears are well utilized, with the rears being mainly used for the score. Mainly because, despite this film’s name, there is very little action to be seen here. Which leaves the surrounds with not much else to do but the score.
The LFE track packs quite a punch when asked to. As I previously stated, this action/ thriller is a little light on the action. But when that action does kick in with all its slo-mo cheesiness, the bass comes to life and becomes the star of the show. Bass levels also complement the score of the film quite well and add much needed extra oomph to the film.
I was pleasantly surprised with this audio track and how effective it was at creating a mood with its score. The film itself is light on action and not aggressive on bass, and it won't be rattling any walls. But this is a fine audio track that fits the film that was made.
Commentary with Director Chuck Russell and writer Paul Solan – This was a fun commentary to listen to. It has the right blend of info about the production and features two guys that obviously like working together, with friendly back and forth banter. Highlights include the fact that the writer was actually the crazy gang boss, Lemi K; Christopher Meloni’s action scene in his barber shop, and how he prepped for months on one of the most unintentionally hilarious scenes in the movie.
At the beginning of this film are clips of police brutality, wanting the viewer to think this is going to be a statement on gang violence and police corruption; but you quickly realize that is the extent of what the movie wanted to say. After that small intro, this is a lifeless and shallow film folks. There is very little energy driving this movie and its plot is just as limp and rote. If it wasn't for the unintentionally funny slo-mo action, and a so bored it’s hilarious John Travolta, this would be a total loss. As it stands, these revenge flicks are a dime a dozen and with a so/so Blu-ray transfer you can skip this light on thrills thriller.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.