Bruce Willis. John Travolta. Chuck Russell. Three names would have meant something if Paradise City had been made in the ’90s. Not to forget, this also marks the return of Willis and Travolta, where they last appeared on screen together in Pulp Fiction nearly 30 years ago.
But none of this matters when Paradise City turns out to be a bargain-basement DTV action thriller. The story goes like this: We first see Ian Swan (Bruce Willis), a bounty hunter who finds himself being pursued and attacked by a group of heavily-armed mercenaries. He got shot and later, presumably dead from a gunfight.
His son, Ryan (Blake Jenner), is determined to find out the truth about his father’s alleged death. And to do so, he teams up with Ian’s ex-partner Robbie (Stephen Dorff) and Maui police detective, Savannah (Praya Lundberg). Their investigation leads them to a wealthy power broker named Buckley (John Travolta), who is involved in dirty politics and criminal activities.
The least thing that Chuck Russell could have done here is a fun and thrilling B-movie vibe of an action thriller. Something that he previously did in Schwarzenegger-starred Eraser back in 1996. Too bad that’s hardly the case here in Paradise City. The action, which mostly involved gunfights feels like they are done by an inexperienced or novice director. Even if the movie is stuck with a limited budget, that doesn’t mean the action has to look boring and devoid of excitement.
Russell, who also co-wrote the screenplay alongside Edward Drake and Corey Large is painfully tedious and worst of all, relies heavily on expository-heavy scenarios to drive the movie forward. The movie doesn’t even bother to spend sufficient time to make us care about the characters here. Given the title, I was half expecting Russell would just throw everything but the kitchen sink with a scene of some of these characters ending up encountering Guns N’ Roses and the famous title song playing in the background.
It doesn’t help either when the acting is simply substandard. It’s a pity that Paradise City happens to be Bruce Willis’ last role before he was forced to retire from acting due to aphasia. It was a disorder that impacts a person’s partial brain function in terms of communication regardless of speaking, writing, reading or understanding. Sure, his acting has been in a steep decline over the last few years ever since he was relegated to the world of DTV.
Still, the current condition that he has right now remains a big loss to the Hollywood industry in general. So much for my wishful thinking that I actually been expecting him to make a comeback to the big-budget studio movie in the long-planned prequel-and-sequel hybrid of Die Hard 6. Unfortunately, the project was cancelled ever since Disney acquired Fox.
Back to Paradise City, Bruce Willis isn’t much the main star anyway since his character is practically non-existent for the large bulk of the movie. It turns out that Blake Jenner leads the movie anyway in an unforgivably wooden performance as Ryan Swan. John Travolta fares equally worst in his antagonist turn as Buckley while Praya Lundberg is nothing more than mere eye candy, complete with a gratuitous excuse to show off her model body in a skimpy pink bikini. Only Stephen Dorff delivers a fairly decent supporting role as Robbie.
If anything else, Russell did attempt to juice up his otherwise lacklustre plot with an unexpected twist. Let’s just it was a twist that pays homage to a certain popular movie in the ’90s starring one of the actors, who also appeared in this movie. Of course, it just isn’t enough to overcome most of the movie’s shortcomings.