After three years in prison, Sonny, (played by the often underrated Timothy Olyphant), returns to his sleepy, backwater hometown intent on collecting his dues. Forced into taking the fall for a drugs-bust, Sonny tracks down ex-employers Fred Vance (William Forsythe) and his highly-strung nephew Eddie (Josh Lucas) who owe him $200,000, as his share of the spoils. However, they aren’t too happy to see him and even less happy when he demands his cut. They give him $10,000 and offer him a partnership in their business, but he is trying to go straight and just wants the cash owed to him. From that point on he’s a marked man and it’s not long before his dad’s been killed in an explosion and he’s taken a beating from the nephew.
Unfortunately for him, while he’s been away, the Vances have become a corrupt powerhouse and own much of the town and its police force and are therefore pretty much untouchable. Only his old school buddy, Dave (Josh Brolin), who is a local sheriff, wants to help him to unpick this web of corruption.
Now if this all sounds very exciting and action packed sadly it’s not because Lethal Vengeance: The Violent Zone (a.k.a. Coastlines) is a very sedately paced film and even the few action scenes that exist lack much in the way of dramatic tension, partly due to a pretty unsuitable music score that permeates the film and partly due to the fact that director Victor Nunez either seems unable or unwilling to invest much time and effort in these more kinetic sequences.
It’s a shame really as, when I originally read the bumf about the movie, it made it sound like a slightly more intelligent version of Walking Tall, but disappointingly that’s not the case. That’s not to say that The Violent Zone doesn’t have its plus points. The acting is excellent throughout, with the starry cast being able to get their teeth into some pretty meaty dramatic roles with some very impressive and naturalistic dialogue. It’s a shame that the always excellent Angela Bettis isn’t given more to do, but Sarah Wynter, playing Brolin’s wife, more than holds her own against the rest of the very capable, but mostly male, cast.
The film is also well shot, although not particularly imaginatively, and I got the sense that this was more of a made-for-TV film rather than one which had been destined for the big screen. It’s also interesting to note that the copyright at the end of the credits is for 2002, which kind of backs up a suspicion I’ve had for a few years now that a lot of distributors are currently trawling their back shelves for pre-existing product that they haven’t released yet rather than investing in new stuff. I guess in the present financial climate you can’t really blame them.
So is it worth watching? Well that depends on your tolerance for kitchen sink melodrama and whether or not you’re happy to watch a film that will most likely find it’s home as ‘TV-movie of the week’ rather than in theatres. My main problem with The Violent Zone is that it spends way too much time on Sonny’s relationship with Dave’s wife rather than on the far more exciting one of how the two friends attempt to take down the Vance’s corrupt empire. And although their relationship leads to a couple of tender scenes it also distracts way too much from the main narrative and causes the film to end on, what to me at least, was a rather unbelievable note.
I suspect, although Nunez has sole writing credit, there was quite a lot of producer interference with this film and that’s kind of borne out by the number of producers involved – I counted at least seven! I’m guessing that no one really knew whom they were aiming the film at and, as a result, it suffers from trying to please too many people.
Reviewer: Justin Richards
Metrodome will be releasing Lethal Vengeance: The Violent Zone on DVD on 14th May, so keep a look out for it on the shelves of your local HMV, supermarket or online. There were no extras on the disc I was sent, but there might be some on the retail version.