Film Review: Reprisal

Lackluster thriller about the battle of wits between a cop and a reluctant criminal.
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Bank manager Jacob (Frank Grillo) appears to have an ideal life: a beautiful wife and daughter (Olivia Culpo and Natalia Sophie Butler, respectively), a job with seniority, and a good neighbor, retired police officer James (Bruce Willis)…plus he looks like an underwear model. But things aren’t all rosy. His daughter is severely diabetic and the family finances are rocky, even though he and his wife both work full-time. Yet things can always get worse: A robber kitted out with military-grade weaponry and body armor bursts into Jacob’s office, kills the lone security guard and forces Jacob and a co-worker to carry two bags stuffed with cash from the vault for him before making a clean getaway.

The experience is a major kick in the masculinity for Jacob, who’s already rattled by his perceived failure as a breadwinner and father, the latter being particularly preposterous since he certainly didn’t give his little girl diabetes and the only thing he could reasonably have done during the robbery was call the police, which he attempted to do, only to find himself looking down the business end of an assault rifle. As his wife points out, had he tackled the armed intruder, all he would have accomplished was getting himself killed, and now that a major task force has been assembled to crack the high-profile crime, he needs to let it go. Oh, and he’s a cop’s son, so it’s safe to assume he heard plenty during his childhood about civilians meddling in police investigations and mucking everything up. But no matter—he needs to do something and decides to track down the bank robber himself, and for some reason James—remember, a retired cop—agrees to help.

Meanwhile, we’re also getting to know the bad guy, Gabriel (Johnathon Schaech), whose backstory is mostly that he’s ex-military and therefore has a stockpile of weapons and body armor, and that he has an ailing and exceptionally disagreeable father whose motto is “An eye for an eye, a life for a life.” Presumably Gabriel, too, has medical bills to pay. Oh, and he also has a very cool lair in an abandoned building full of mannequins, because of course he does.

The bottom line is that Reprisal is an extremely silly movie doing its damnedest to look tough and gritty and clever, none of which it is. In fact, it’s both tediously formulaic and weirdly puzzling. The fact that Grillo and Schaech look sufficiently alike that they could easily be brothers suggests that viewers are meant to see some sort of dark kinship (perhaps literal) between the mild-mannered bank manager and the brutal criminal, both driven to extremes for the sake of their families. But that either wasn’t the case or it’s so poorly developed it doesn’t matter and in early scenes has the potential to be actively confusing. The action sequences are unexceptional, and anyone who’s seen any movie ever knows that if you introduce a sick child in the first act, he or she needs to be endangered in the second, so no surprises there.

If ever a movie was made for secondary markets, it’s this one. Even Willis’ name is unlikely to translate into significant theatrical revenue.