14 July 2017 | LloydBayer
A film that should have been a fun crime caper is weighed down by dull-as-lead directing.
80s action icon Bruce Willis makes an average of four films a year. That is twice more than what buddy Stallone does yearly. Trouble is, these films are either poorly marketed or badly written or Willis is tasked with supporting roles opposite new actors in lead roles. Which is why Once Upon a Time in Venice has potential but how well it performs will be anyone's guess. There are lots of established actors along with Willis in an interesting setup that resembles a cross between a Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino film. Playing a retired cop turned private investigator (Moonlighting anyone?), Willis plays a loner whose dog is kidnapped by petty criminals. To get his dog back, Willis' Steve Ford must navigate through a series of heists and dodgy characters, including loan sharks and dimwitted gangsters.
It's a film that sounds very familiar and doesn't require a whole lot of thinking to sit through. But as an action-comedy, Once Upon a Time in Venice is a misfire that should have gone straight to streaming video, or the type of film you watch in a hotel room before a flight. There are moments that are supposed to be funny, like Ford's best friend (John Goodman) going through a divorce, or Ford trying to infiltrate a gangster hideout (inaudible mumbling from Jason Momoa), but there's something missing. There are other popular actors too, albeit shoehorned in bit roles that never add up to the overall story.
Debut director Mark Cullen has a long history writing for TV and it shows. Most scenes in the film feel disjointed or like skits at best. At worst it feels like the script was filmed soon after first draft. That's a shame because this film had all the juicy ingredients for a fun crime caper along the likes of Snatch or Jackie Brown. Instead, the film is weighed down by dull-as-lead directing that even John McClane wouldn't shoot his way through. Speaking of Willis, and at 62, there are still plenty of good films he can make as long as the choice is right. Let's just hope Willis doesn't disappear down the rabbit hole like Nic Cage.