Combustible Celluloid Review - Paradise City (2022), Edward Drake, Corey Large, Chuck Russell, Chuck Russell, John Travolta, Bruce Willis, Stephen Dorff, Blake Jenner, Praya Lundberg, Laird Akeo, Kate Katzman, Kade Vu, Mary Ann Perreira, Vene Chun
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With: John Travolta, Bruce Willis, Stephen Dorff, Blake Jenner, Praya Lundberg, Laird Akeo, Kate Katzman, Kade Vu, Mary Ann Perreira, Vene Chun
Written by: Edward Drake, Corey Large, Chuck Russell
Directed by: Chuck Russell
MPAA Rating: R for violence and language
Running Time: 92
Date: 11/11/2022
IMDB

Paradise City (2022)

1 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Aloha and Goodbye

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Beautiful Hawaiian locations, a veteran genre director, and nostalgic stunt casting can't overcome the general low energy level and lazy attitude that permeate this crime drama from start to finish.

Bounty hunter Ryan Swan (Blake Jenner) arrives in Maui after getting word that his father, Ian Swan (Bruce Willis), also a bounty hunter, has been killed. With help from a local bounty hunter, Robbie (Stephen Dorff) and a homicide detective, Savannah (Praya Lundberg), Ryan discovers that his father came to Hawaii after a huge bounty, an elusive and dangerous criminal called Billford.

Meanwhile, land developer Buckley (John Travolta) is busy trying to get a man named Kane (Branscombe Richmond) elected to the Senate, after which he hopes to be able to gain access to many of Maui's protected resources. After Robbie is abducted, Ryan and Savannah discover that there may be a connection between Billford and Buckley, and that Buckley is far more dangerous than anyone anticipated.

The credited director on Paradise City is Chuck Russell, whose credits go all the way back to A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and also include The Mask and The Scorpion King, although any hopes of an extra level of quality are dashed when the name Edward Drake (Cosmic Sin) comes up in the writing credits.

And right away the movie reeks of cutting corners. A car crash is simulated with an offscreen "crash" noise, and then a pan to the right to show an already stopped and steaming car. Willis's first few lines of dialogue are hurriedly edited together from whatever good takes they could get from the star, who suffers from aphasia.

The name-above-the-title billing of Willis and John Travolta of course recalls their famous collaboration in Pulp Fiction, where they shared only two scenes, but both memorable, and essential. Here they also share only a couple of scenes, but only one shot appears to contain both actors at the same time (and it's a long shot of silhouetted figures on the beach); others are back-and-forth over-the-shoulder shots that could have used stand-ins. So there's really nothing to get excited about.

Indeed, no one else here seems to be too excited either, if the stiff, bored acting is any indication. The only one who seems to be having any fun is Travolta, whose villain character wears frilly shirtsleeves and speaks with a slight Liberace-style inflection; it's both an interesting character touch and a somewhat crude portrayal of a possible LGBTQ+ character. Either way, Paradise City isn't really worth a visit.

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