Combustible Celluloid Review - The Baker (2023), Paolo Mancini, Thomas Michael, Jonathan Sobol, Ron Perlman, Emma Ho, Elias Koteas, Harvey Keitel, Joel David Moore, Samantha Kaine
Combustible Celluloid
With: Ron Perlman, Emma Ho, Elias Koteas, Harvey Keitel, Joel David Moore, Samantha Kaine
Written by: Paolo Mancini, Thomas Michael
Directed by: Jonathan Sobol
MPAA Rating: R for violence, language and some drug use
Running Time: 104
Date: 07/28/2023

The Baker (2023)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Blood Bread

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A thoroughly generic action/thriller that borrows its familiar elements from many sources, The Baker features a likable cast, which, through collective charm and charisma, keeps things on track.

Peter (Joel David Moore) is a single father, working as a limo driver to raise his non-speaking daughter Delphi (Emma Ho). While awaiting a pickup, he witnesses a drug buy gone wrong that leaves all participants dead. He retrieves a bag of drugs from the scene and hatches a plan. He drops Delphi with his estranged father, a baker (Ron Perlman), and heads back to the city to sell the drugs. Unfortunately, Delphi has secretly switched bags and Peter does not have what he promised.

Meanwhile, a powerful drug lord known as The Merchant (Harvey Keitel) has tasked his right-hand man Vic (Elias Koteas) to get his inventory back, or face the consequences. After a time, Delphi and her Pappi attempt to find Peter, but discover instead a series of tough killers, all of whom are after the drugs, and will stop at nothing to get them.

Pilfering bits from John Wick (the retired warrior who just wants to be left alone), Aliens (the little girl who doesn't speak), and The Professional (the killer and the little girl form a bond), The Baker is at least good enough to line up all the right elements in the right places. Even if it doesn't cook up anything new, it provides many enjoyable little touches.

Perlman is a big barrel of a man, and believable as a fighter, but — as in Liam Neeson's action movies — he's human. He bleeds and groans with pain after a fight, and his gentle side is irresistible. It's easy to believe his quick bonding with Delphi, as young Emma Ho is a delight. (She wears goggles on her forehead throughout most of the movie, looking somewhat like a mini Hellboy.)

Moreover, Keitel gets only a few scenes in which to play the big crime lord, but he treats the opportunity like The Godfather, oozing calm menace. And Koteas's Vic becomes a tragic figure, more than just a second-banana, but a man questioning his choices. The Baker leaves off with the suggestion of a sequel, and, as long as the good characters keep coming, that might be okay.

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