The cliché “tough guy with a heart of gold” is the gist of “The Enforcer,” and nothing more emerges to rethink or complicate that tired hook.
The star charisma of Antonio Banderas, who plays a seasoned mafia enforcer who goes against his own organisation to save a young person in danger, helps this criminal underworld drama.
With a polished and fashionable presentation, Richard Hughes’ feature directorial debut also improves the situation slightly. But the outcomes are still too constrained by the basic, rote screenplay that W. Peter Iliff wrote for the first “Point Break” to go beyond the status of cheap genre fare.
Cuda (Banderas) has recently been released from prison after taking the brunt of punishment for actions carried out in support of Miami gangster leader Estelle (Kate Bosworth). His 15-year-old daughter is scared of him because of his extended absence, and his ex-wife is openly antagonistic. He wishes to mend fences with her.
He develops a fatherly interest in Billie (Zolee Griggs), a runaway from a foster home who is also 15—possibly as a regretful outcome. He secures a hotel room for her so that she may stay off the streets, which he is all too aware are dangerous, and avoids getting her in trouble for theft.
Billie is quickly taken from that temporary shelter, most likely by sex traffickers, and Cuda realises right on that the offenders are most likely connected to his own firm.
This is the kind of film that condemns the exploitation of children while yet showing us plenty of risqué scenes of naked girls in sex parlours, strip clubs, etc.
The fact that Cuda, or “The Barracuda,” is a notoriously ruthless enforcer who regularly dispatches criminals in this area yet now feels obliged to risk it all for a youngster with big eyes is even more fundamentally troubling.
Never previously did it occur to him that such persecution is the lifeblood of Estelle’s businesses. To acknowledge any inconsistency or change in his behaviour would go outside the scope of the script. He is simply an excellent horrible guy, nothing more.
Banderas does give a part that could have easily lent itself to wooden machismo postures respect and gravitas, even though it pains to see him so squandered so soon after outstanding, range-expanding turns in films like “Official Competition” and “Pain and Glory” and “Pain and Glory.”
At least his presence helps to downplay the material’s tedium if he can’t make it better. Bosworth, who is given some of the weakest languages, gives her villainous character a stock honey-voiced duplicity that is one-note until Estelle’s over-the-top exit scene.
That character, dressed in a black vamp wig, offers a frustratingly small potential to a talented performer who has already portrayed countless ambiguous layers in “House of Darkness” and “The Immaculate Room.”
As a rootless teenage streetfighter who becomes Cuda’s professional protege, Mojean Aria serves as a third lead in a way. This character’s name, “Stray,” reveals just how little thought went into the screenplay, which this gifted Australian actor can’t do much to fill up. Supporting roles are filled competently, with a few erratic efforts coming from actors who were selected from modelling, hip-hop, “online celebrity,” and other industries.
For its first hour or so, “The Enforcer” manages to get by with neon-noir styling, with DP Callan Green’s widescreen pictures and other design elements laying on “hot” colours to appealingly depict a primarily nocturnal Miami atmosphere.
When the closing credits reveal that this movie was actually filmed in Thessaloniki, Greece, the audience’s surprise serves as a reminder of their success. Even though some of the events absolutely stretch the imagination, the climactic 20 minutes are filled with bodies and show that Hughes has a knack for orchestrating drama. While not particularly dramatic or exciting, the film is simple to watch because of the editors Damian Gomez and Mattias Morheden’s consistent rhythm.
But with so little depth to draw from, the film’s tragic dimension cannot be achieved, which is made worse by the fact that it begins with a significant spoiler of what is to come. While attempting the grand, it never manages to go beyond the conventional.
On September 23, “The Enforcer,” which should not be confused with various other films bearing the same name, most notably Clint Eastwood’s 1976 Dirty Harry entry, will debut on 10 screens in the United States concurrently with its VOD release.
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