Movie icons and Pulp Fiction costars Bruce Willis and John Travolta face off in this action-packed thriller. When bounty hunter Ian Swan (Willis) is shot and presumed dead after disappearing in Maui waters, Swan’s son, Ryan (Blake Jenner), his ex-partner (Stephen Dorff), and a local detective (Praya Lundberg) set out to find his killers. After being threatened by a ruthless power broker (Travolta), it appears Ryan and his team are out of options — until an excursion to the closely guarded island community of Paradise City unites them with an unforeseen ally.
John Travolta plays island crime boss Buckley. His eccentricity is evident through costume choices and dialogue. Thank goodness he is who he is because the character leans heavily into caricature territory. He is at his best in high-stakes action sequences.
Stephen Dorff is Ian Swan’s former bounty-hunting partner. He has a bit of an ambulance-chaser energy to him. He vibes well with Jenner, and his chemistry with Willis is chef’s kiss.
Bruce Willis plays Ian Swan with that legendary, effortless swagger we love. He is funny, charismatic, and a total badass. He is everything you want him to be.
I’ve been a fan of Blake Jenner since his turn on GLEE. He stands out from the crowd in every role. In PARADISE CITY, he plays Willis’s son, Ryan Swan. He possesses a natural fearlessness. No matter who is his opposite onscreen, your eyes stay on Jenner. He deserves more leading roles. Frankly, he has the charm of a young Bruce Willis. It was spectacular casting. He is magnificent.
Somehow, PARADISE CITY makes Jenner’s character impervious to automatic rifle bullets and, somehow, possesses the ability to survive a 10th-floor header into a shallow koi pond. It is unbelievable. No, literally, even for an action film, it is far-fetched. And this pains me to say that every female performance is downright atrocious, except for Mary Ann Perreira as Auntie Kona. She is a treasure. The dialogue from director Chuck Russell and co-writers Corey Large, and Edward John Drake, is mostly eye-roll-inducing. The already sped-through, convoluted plot also jumps in time, but not enough. It is messy.
Here is what works. The fight choreography is undeniably entertaining. (Extra points for having Savannah kick off her heels for brawling.) Overall, the tightest scenes occur when Savannah and Ryan arrive in Paradise City proper. There is genuine yet surprising humor and a grounded backstory. That’s all I’ll say to avoid spoilers. I could see this story maybe working better in serial form. But that’s a big maybe. Jenner is the only one that sustains authenticity. He deserves better, and so does Bruce Willis’s legacy.
**Stick around for the credits**
In Theaters, on Digital, and On Demand November 11, 2022
Corey Large, Edward Drake and Chuck Russell
John Travolta, Bruce Willis, Blake Jenner, Praya Lundberg, with Stephen Dorff
R for violence and language
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