Bruce Willis has played many wisecracking private eyes over his career, once again stepping back into the role to lead the low-budget, B-rate L.A Vengeance – or, as it's titled overseas, Once Upon a Time in Venice. The films hits DVD this week.

To answer that question: hard no… L.A Vengeance is an awful film. There’s no doubt about it. This is unforgivingly bad. But it is also one of those trashy, B-rate action films that is so bad that there becomes some enjoyment in how hard it fails – think any recent straight-to-DVD/limited Nicolas Cage actioner but with Bruce Willis in the lead role instead and you have L.A Vengeance. It recalls last year’s Southern Fury; a disposable, very over-the-top, horribly written yet guilty pleasure action flick. In that regard, there is enjoyment to be had with this. Not the good kind, though. Because, at the end of the day, this is just as bad a film as they come.

The plot is part-John Wick, part-Southern Fury. Willis plays Steve Ford, an arrogant and sleazy private eye. When he messes with a gangster Spyder (Jason Momoa) and his dog his kidnapped, Ford sets out on a mission to retrieve his dog and not stop until he has done so. Along the way, though, things go awry and Ford finds a lot of heat on his tail after him. It’s a poorly written screenplay and not only is the dialogue so cringe-worthy and contrived, but none of the jokes work either (there’s a lot of sex and dick jokes because that’s what seems to classify as comedy these days) but the plot itself is such a sprawling mess. For a film only 94 minutes long, it takes a rather long time to really get into the meat of the story. And, when we finally do, it becomes way too convoluted for its own good.
The action is also bland and uninspired. The stunts are goofy; they’re frantic and awfully helmed. It’s a wannabe action-comedy that doesn’t work in either; nothing about this film works. It brings a star-studded cast to the table too – the likes of Willis, Momoa, Famke Janssen and even John Goodman – but the performances feel either too lazy or too much and too over-the-top and most are underused. Willis, in his latest string of terrible B-rate movies of this nature, is clearly just there for the paycheck and his boredom is evident on-screen. It’s just a lazy performance that makes you wonder how one of the biggest and best action stars of the 80s has ended up like this… lazy acting in bad films that make them feel so much worse. Momoa feels like the only saving grace here, revelling in the grandiose nature of Spyder but he is so underused – he appears then disappears and that’s about it, which is a shame given he’s the best thing about this film.

Nothing about L.A Vengeance works. Yes, it’s easy to laugh at this film for just how awful and lazy and cringe-worthy it is… But, at the end of the day, it’s awful and lazy and cringe-worthy. B-rate action films, as the likes of Brawl in Cell Block 99 have proven, can be entertaining slices of grit and violence. But this just sucks. It’s a bad movie with bad writing and bad performances. At least Nicolas Cage plays these bad, B-rate flicks with glee and grandiosity and has reached meme status as a result… Willis just feels like he can’t be arsed and isn’t even trying anymore.


L.A Vengeance sucks. There is “so bad, it’s good” potential to it… But, really, it is also just a very, very bad film that is laughably awful, horrendously cringe-worthy and shamefully lazy.

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Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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