You used to be able to describe a movie as “the kind of thing that would have gone straight to video,” and people would have understood you. “Video on demand” doesn’t have the same ring. Nevertheless, “Reprisal” would have once filled out a lonely shelf at a Blockbuster, the ideal home for its sedate performances and visually hectic action.
Like other vigilante thrillers before it, the movie, directed by Brian A. Miller, rests on the notion that, with a little ingenuity and firepower, an ordinary man can fight crime. Even those inclined to sympathize with that premise politically may feel insulted by the plot hole-a-palooza offered here to support it.
Frank Grillo plays Jacob, a manager at a Cincinnati bank that’s robbed by a mysterious mastermind (Johnathon Schaech). Jacob regrets feeling helpless during the incident. Fortunately, his neighbor is a retired cop played by Bruce Willis. “Break it down for me,” he offers. Soon, with just a bit of brainstorming, they are able to pinpoint the robber’s next target more speedily than the F.B.I., all the better to disrupt his plans.
Mr. Schaech’s character repeatedly vows a life for a life and an eye for an eye — though it is not always clear whose life or eye he’s avenging. It is, however, certain from the opening moments that Jacob’s diabetic daughter will become a pawn in the ensuing violence, which is resolved in a finale so heavy on coincidence that any semi-respecting video clerk would have turned the cassette to the wall in shame.
Rated R. Men with guns. Running time: 1 hour 29 minutes.