Director: Christian Sesma
Script: Zach Zerries
Cast: Mickey Rourke, Michael Jai White, James Russo, Gillian White, Jessica Uberguaga, Paul Sloan, Jay Montalvo, Christopher Browning
Running time: 85 minutes
Zara Sanders (Gillian White) is a middle-aged woman who seems to have it all – a good legal career, (one that she’s good at and also enjoys), a loving family and a nice home. However, she harbours a much darker past, one that comes knocking very loudly when her old nemesis, Jack Devlin (Rourke), sees her on the news, on some CCTV footage, after she takes out the waitress’s abusive husband in a café, with some handy martial arts moves.
Initially Jack, or Patrick as he’s now known, sends a paid assassin to eradicate her, but she takes him down during, perhaps, the film’s most exciting action sequence, so he has his own goons kidnap her step-daughter, Audrey, in order to try and lure her out to meet him.
As the bodies mount up and her past is exposed – in all its seedy sex-slave glory – her husband, Brian (Michael Jai White), adds his own martial arts expertise to her already formidable arsenal of fists and feet, and the two trade blows and bullets with the female flesh-dealing gang.
Take Back is the kind of film that used to get a cinema release back in the 80s and early 90s, but is now relegated to the back of the queue with vanilla DVD releases such as this one by 101 Films. However, in Take Back’s case this is probably justified since the film seems to waste much of its potential and doesn’t really deliver on what fans of this kind of film want to see – i.e. lots of fighting and action.
I suspect that since this was shot during the pandemic the script was revised considerably in order to contend with the viral menace, hence halving the effectiveness of the fights and especially the impact of the final showdown encounter between Zara and crazy Jack/Patrick. It’s a shame since Take Back has some great talent involved, but they often seem to be performing with one arm tied behind their backs… There are also plot discrepancies and inconsistences that probably arose due to last minute re-writes, but maybe not… I’m trying to give the filmmakers the benefit of the doubt.
The acting is mostly okay, with Michael Jai White bringing a rather subdued performance to the table, although he’s still got more charisma in his little finger than most RADA – trained actors. His real-life wife, Gillian White, is also charismatic as Zara, although is saddled with some dubious dialogue, and some rushed action sequences that don’t really do her abilities the justice they deserve. As I mentioned before, the fight with the hit-man was good, but I wasn’t a fan of some of the editing choices, which make the flow of the fight less convincing.
Perhaps the strangest performance is that of Mickey Rourke whose plastic surgery-riddled fizzog (which somewhat reminiscent of a melted candle these days) seems incapable nowadays of conveying even the most basic human emotions, and he spends most of the film either playing with his dogs or putting his sunglasses on and taking them off again. WTF! It’s a shame that Rourke’s career – once so promising – took such a massive nose-dive this past decade or so. Regardless, he still has screen presence, and makes for a disturbing, if rather under-used, bad-guy.
The music score by Nima Fakhrara and Navid Hejazi is both atmospheric and, at times, irritating, but kinda works. And the locations, in and around the town of Conchella, California, feel quite fresh and original, with some stunning mountain backdrops. It was also nice to see actor James Russo (always good value) playing a tenacious police detective, and the bad-guy’s right-hand man, Dwayne, (played by Paul Sloan), had presence too; it’s just a shame that his departure from the action was so anti-climactic.
In a nutshell, this is a somewhat disappointing A History of Violence wannabe and is probably mostly just for hard-core fans of the likes of Rourke and Jai White, but it still has enough decent elements to recommend a wary watch.