Let’s talk about a kind of film I affectionately call the “slaughter fest.” Simply put, it’s a carnage-filled action movie with its brains knocked out. And, oh, how Silencer is just that—a big, dumb slaughter fest.
Don’t get me wrong, I, too, enjoy seeing a deserving movie villain absorb many chunks of flying metal. But there’s got to be something else there, too.
Here, you get shootouts, mayhem and characters so lacking in nuance that they may as well be animated wax dummies. If all I wanted to see was explosions, car crashes and bodies flying I’d bring a folding chair and sit by the 101 freeway at rush hour.
Silencer is driven by gunplay, beatings and far too many bullets to the head. In place of even the most basic character development, it uses calculated heartstring pullers to gain our sympathy, then delivers utterly predictable violence and a pile of corpses. Although, like most half-witted violence-porn flicks, it never deals with murder and death in a realistic manner. That would inject something approaching real human emotion into the picture, and that’s, like, not cool, dude. Just keep the automatic weapon fire blazing and mow down as many generic desperados as possible. Just like a live-action video game.
“He’s unable to pull the trigger…and that’s when things get more desperate for the rusty freelance sniper…”
The curious part of many slaughter-fest movies — and Silencer in particular — is that they contrast utter disregard for human life with a sentimentalized, sanitized view of family life. In this world, the characters are for the most part either pure as the driven snow or scum-sucking pigs. They seem to say, sure, these men are vicious, bloodthirsty killers, but awwww, at home, they’re so nice to their wives and young daughters.
But beware, as soon as anyone’s kid or significant other is idealized, the cheezy plot device alarm goes off. The innocent family members are going to be put in harm’s way. Naturally, the badass hero must jet into action and rescue the child or whoever, exact revenge on the twisted, evil rat bastards, or preferably, both.
In Silencers, the main characters are all killers perched on various rungs of what you might call the “ladder of derangement.” The hero, Frank (Johnny Messner), a troubled Iraqi War veteran, is a former contract killer who’s called out of retirement for one last job. He’s on about the first or second rung of the ladder, I’d say. Not a drooling psycho, exactly, but he can be set off. Then there’s gang leader Ochoa (Danny Trejo) and his crew. They’re high enough on my imaginary ladder to paint to rain gutters on your house. There’s really not much to say about any of them. You’ve seen ’em all before.
And the acting is uniformly uniform. Messner doesn’t speak his lines so much as growl them. And, oh, what lines they are. When he’s cornered into doing a hit for Trejo he fairly spits out his words. “This is my last job! Com-prende, amigo?”
“…all of the tiresome cliches are present and accounted for.”
Aside from delivering regrettable dialog, Frank/Messner is haunted by a traumatic event that occurred 10 years earlier in Iraq. He’s unable to pull the trigger on the one Trejo wants him to waste, and that’s when things get more desperate for the rusty freelance sniper.
Rest assured that all of the tiresome cliches are present and accounted for. One of the bad guys, the boss’s flunky, is not only stupid and evil, but also an annoying dick. So Frank has an extra little score to be settled, and you know how it’s going to play out. He’s also a recovering alcoholic, so watch for the showdown he’s bound to have with the bottle.
Some of you are probably thinking, whoa, dude, it’s an action movie. Calm down. The hero is supposed to be just a cardboard cutout who makes people bleed. Chill out! … or something along those lines.
Here’s my retort:
When a movie merely tries to push the audience’s emotional buttons the result is bound to be less than memorable. It’s a mechanical approach to movie making. If no interesting characters that the audience can identify with are developed, the people in the cheap seats won’t care much about what happens when the good guys win. And I didn’t. It’s just too predictable.
Silencer (2018) Directed by Timothy Woodward Jr. Written by Sean Mick. Starring Danny Trejo, Johnny Messner, Robert LaSardo, Nikki Leigh, Chuck Liddell, Timothy Ortiz.
2 out of 10 sniper bullets