2024 begins with a bang but only to a certain extent in Kimani Ray Smith’s The Painter, an action thriller starring Charlie Weber as Peter, a former CIA agent who has an extraordinary hearing ability.
The first 30 minutes look promising for a movie with a limited budget and resources as Smith’s stunt background is put to decent use as long as you can tolerate his wobbly camerawork. This includes the opening action sequence in the parking lot, which showcases Peter’s nimble tactical skills against his target’s bodyguards. The mission, however, doesn’t go as well as expected and subsequently prompts Peter to quit the agency.
Seventeen years later, we learn that Peter has since living a quiet life as a painter. But his past eventually catches up on him when a mysterious teenager named Sophia (Madison Bailey) appears one day. She claims to be his daughter but Peter’s wife finds it impossible since his wife Elena (Rryla McIntosh) lost their child a long time ago due to a tragic incident. If that’s not enough, a team of heavily armed agents arrives at his home resulting in one of the best action scenes in the movie.
Unfortunately, Brian Buccellato’s screenplay suffers from one exposition-heavy scenario after another. His attempt to jazz up the plot with the Bourne-like highly classified black ops project — in this case, it has something to do with brainwashing the children to become assassins — narrative angle is ambitious but clunkily written. Smith’s direction tends to be erratic, particularly in the sluggish midsection as we see Peter spending time trying to make sense of everything going on.
The Painter also introduces a top assassin who goes by the nickname of “Ghost” (Max Montesi) with a penchant for listening to techno music on a pair of headphones. He’s a creepy young man who shows no remorse upon eliminating his targets and scenes of him encountering Peter on two separate occasions do bring the movie a much-needed kinetic energy.
The cast, in the meantime, is a mixed bag. Weber does an okay job in his lead role as ex-CIA agent Peter while Madison Bailey delivers an adequate supporting turn as Sophia. Jon Voight shows up as Peter’s adoptive father and CIA boss Henry Byrne in the kind of familiar performance that we have seen him in the past (the 1997 action thriller Most Wanted quickly comes to mind). At least he has some fun appearing in different disguises whenever he meets Peter (e.g. the earlier scene in the diner). Marie Avgeropoulos, who plays the shady CIA section chief hellbent on hunting down Peter and Sophia, is nothing more than a standard-issue villain.
The climactic third act’s eventual reveal doesn’t take a genius to connect the dots, particularly if you have seen enough action thrillers with espionage elements. Too bad the payoff is rather underwhelming even with all the double-crosses and twisty narrative. If only Smith and Buccellato weren’t too overwhelmed trying to overcomplicate things and went straight for the jugular instead. And while I understand this movie doesn’t have the luxury of a sizable budget, I’m sure Smith can do better than ending his movie in a nondescript industrial setting.