Paradise City Review: Travolta plays a villain, and Willis isn’t evil
Paradise City is a junk crime thriller that stays halfway under the radar, but when a movie like this stars actors like John Travolta, Bruce Willis, and Stephen Dorff, it can sometimes mean two things: the stars are down, but that you will enjoy watching them. The same film shot with Z-grade actors would not have the same Frisson. (It would be tedious to get through.) Chuck Russell, the director of “Paradise City,” is actually a semi-A-list veteran whose credits include “The Mask,” “The Scorpion King,” “Eraser,” and ” The Scorpion King” includes “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors” (which some of us thought was one of the rare 80’s slasher movies). Who knew those credits, in Netflix fashion, would now make Russell sound like some sort of inferior genre Renaissance man? In Paradise City, an underworld drama set in Maui, Russell knows he’s making a dingy piece of product, but he shows his talent by harnessing the mystique of his cast’s fading stars.
Willis has now, of course, spent a number of years making films with anonymous paychecks, and ever since his family revealed he’d been diagnosed with aphasia, it’s been understood – in a way we didn’t – why he sometimes had less affect than before and appeared to be on the phone in his acting. But in Paradise City, Willis’ performance is there. He plays a veteran bounty hunter with a target on his back, and Willis, who sports white bangs and stubble that give him a new aura – almost a Hemingway vibe – transforms his character, Ian Swan, into a wizened, badass elderly statesman . Dorff is his former protégé, now a grizzled bounty hunter himself, living off free drinks and dwindling commissions (in these tough times, even bail ain’t what it used to be). Drawing on his own aura of missed opportunities, Dorff turns every line into a bone-dry zinger.
After Willis’ Ian meets fate, his son Ryan (Blake Jenner) shows up to find out what happened to him. He is associated with Travoltas Buckley, a businessman who is so picky and fastidious, and talks about his double vanilla-spiced espressos (“seasonal”) in a stiff voice that it doesn’t even seem ironic, except, of course, that it is. Travolta, lustrous bald with a beard that looks like it’s made out of cookie crumbs, reminds you how much he enjoys playing juicy creeps, which he does with unusual conviction.
The plot is more like a thin situation that takes place over 90 minutes. There’s a good twist (it has to do with a drug cartel lord and cosmetic surgery), a theme about stripping native Hawaiians of their tribal lands rights, along with plenty of standard action, though Praya Lundberg as a cop who teams up with Jenner’s boy buck hero , makes her fighting spirit palpable. I’m not sure if what Willis, Travolta and Dorff are doing here is what you would call integrity, but all three seem to be enjoying themselves. You slum in style.
https://variety.com/2022/film/reviews/paradise-city-review-john-travolta-bruce-willis-stephen-dorff-1235430850/ Paradise City Review: Travolta plays a villain, and Willis isn’t evil