- by Jeff Beck
I Am Wrath: As Cliched As Cliched Gets (Blu-ray)
If I were to ask you what the most recent film you had seen John Travolta in was, how long would it take you to answer? If it took a while, it would be understandable, for the once popular actor has fallen into a kind of slump of late. He started off with such an incredible career, earning an Academy Award nomination for “Saturday Night Fever,” and even going on to revive himself by starring in “Pulp Fiction,” which earned him a second nod. However, since his turn in the disastrous “Battlefield Earth,” he has mostly been stuck with subpar flicks that include “From Paris with Love,” “Old Dogs,” “Killing Season,” and “The Forger.” That’s not to say that he hasn’t done any good work since then, including “American Crime Story,” “Hairspray,” and “Bolt,” just that he seems to have had trouble getting good projects in the last few years.
This brings us to the latest entry in his filmography, “I Am Wrath,” a film that didn’t even manage to get a theatrical release. It follows Stanley (John Travolta), a man who tragically witnesses the murder of his wife by a gang of thugs. Frustrated that the police are unable to do anything about it, even going so far as to let the man Stanley identified go, he decides to take justice into his own hands. It just so happens that Stanley is a former Back Ops agent, and so, with the help of a former colleague (Christopher Meloni), he sets of to find the men responsible, and in the process, discover the true reason why his wife was killed that day.
“I Am Wrath” is the kind of film where you’ll almost immediately get the striking feeling you’ve seen it before, but that’s for the simple reason that there’s a good chance you already have. It’s a standard action/revenge flick that’s made up of several pieces of better films, but executed in a far less compelling manner. It aims to be something along the lines of “John Wick” or “Taken,” but thanks to Paul Sloan’s cliché-filled screenplay, there’s really nothing it can do in terms of trying to reach the heights that those two outstanding entries in the genre were able to.
True, those films featured a few clichés of their own, but they used those to their advantage, so when they were combined with the highly-stylized action, everything melded together to make an exciting, pulse-pumping, and completely engrossing experience. One of the main problems with “I Am Wrath” is that it feels like it was written by someone who was a big fan of this kind of film, but didn’t know how to do something more original, leaving us with something that felt like a pale imitation of a standard entry in the genre.
This is on top of the problem of the action being rather plain and dull. Going back to the previous examples, there was no shortage of exhilarating sequences when it came to watching Keanu Reeves and Liam Neeson seeking their revenge, but for “I Am Wrath,” there’s just no excitement to be had in watching John Travolta going about trying to avenge his wife’s death. A few people get shot, in addition to others getting beat up or stabbed, but it’s all done so blandly that there’s never really a chance to get absorbed into his quest.
What we’re left with here is a very lazily-made action flick, from the clichéd script to the stagnant direction to the forgettable action sequences. If this is the kind of film that John Travolta is making nowadays, it really makes you worry even more about his career. We know he can do better than this, as he’s proven with several of his previous projects, so there’s no reason he should be signing on to something that clearly had very little thought put into it. Perhaps he’ll be able to revitalize his career once more as he did with “Pulp Fiction,” but until he’s able to get out of this rut of C and D-level films, it’ll only continue to suffer. His recent TV work was a good start. Now he just needs to hold on to that level of quality.
“I Am Wrath” comes to Blu-ray in a 2.40:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of excellent quality. As is fitting for the nature of the film, much of it is quite dark, but the picture remains perfectly sharp and clear throughout the presentation. Likewise, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is fantastic, giving you all of the dialogue and gunshots in outstanding quality. Overall, the film has been given great treatment that warrants no complaints in either department.
Feature Commentary with Director Chuck Russell and Writer/Actor Paul Sloan: An intriguing commentary track that has the director and writer taking you through how the project came about, along with other little behind the scenes tidbits.
“I Am Wrath” is about as clichéd as clichéd gets when it comes to the action/revenge genre. Featuring dull action, an uninspired story, and lifeless characters, there simply isn’t anything here that you haven’t already seen before in several other, and better, films, leaving this one behind as a completely forgettable attempt at breaking into a genre in which making a good film is a rare feat.
Now available on Blu-ray and DVD.
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