Tag Archives: The professional

“22 Bullets” doesn’t leave impact

In the original Kung Fu tv series, Shaolin monk Caine walked the Earth and spent a majority of the episode explaining his intent not to fight – which then devolved into martial arts ass kicking.  22 Bullets is an episode of Kung Fu, but in French and with less people in yellowface.

Jean Reno plays retired mafioso Charly Mattei who wants nothing more than to finish his life without further bloodshed.  There’s no Fairy Godmother to grant this wish, however, so he gets blasted with, you guessed it, 22 bullets.  Despite this, he keeps his bodyguards from killing an informant who knew about the hit and like Caine, he doesn’t wish to fight.  That all changes when the released informant rats out Mattei and his crew, leading to further butchery with the intent of scare him away from vengeful plots.  Too bad Mattei just looks at his butchered bodyguard as an invitation for a bullet battle royale.

Mattei’s denial of bloodshed is the film at its most intriguing.  Whole worlds of possibility flood the imagination when you consider an ex-gangster who wants to solve problems without the gun.  Sadly the story switches tracks and takes the easy way out, making Mattei go on a killing spree that would impress The Punisher.

The key ingredient missing from 22 Bullets is the emotional gunpowder to set off the action in ways that made Heat and Leon: The Professional* such great staples of the genre.  Instead, 22 Bullets is slightly better than the Transporter action fests produced by Luc Besson, but doesn’t leave much to write home about.  Also, since the adept Besson was merely producing, 22 Bullets director Richard Berry assaults us with a barrage of fast cuts that don’t increase urgency, just exasperation.   

Points for being bloody and tag lines like, “Spilled blood never dries” (I was thinking it was “dies”, which might be better), but the film should have decided if it wanted to be a nutty action film or a moving drama with bloodshed and gangsters.  22 Bullets hangs out between these areas, leaving an “eh” vibe when you exit the cinema.

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Ten You Missed

We are a rather fortunate bunch. Our grandparents only had two chances to see a film: either when it came out in theatres or if it popped up on television, which is what made the annual television screenings of The Wizard of Oz such a big deal. It was not until VHS revolutionized the industry and films could be watched whenever we desired. Combine this with the communication powers of the internet and a film that never got past screenings in New York can suddenly make a ton of cash and notoriety.

With such fortunes, I find it our job as film enthusiasts to promote our favorite smaller films as a counter-weight to the advertising juggernauts that rumble across our cultural plains. Continue reading