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The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: Hard Kill

September 3, 2020 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Hard Kill - Natalie Eva Marie and Bruce Willis

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #568: Hard Kill

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that doesn’t have a scar on its back that reminds me of the time I went head-to-head with my direct rival and was hit by a piece of shrapnel in a gun battle and now, every time I see that scar in the bathroom mirror, I long for the day I meet my direct rival again so I can defeat him once and for all, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number five hundred and sixty-eight, I take a look at the new low budget action flick Hard Kill, which first hit digital and Video On Demand on August 25th, 2020.

Hard Kill


Hard Kill, directed by Matt Eskandari, is my first foray into the world of low budget action flicks involving action movie icon Bruce Willis. If you look at the Bruce Willis imdb page, Willis has made at least 18 of these kinds of movies so far, so if I ever decide to do some sort of mega marathon of these movies I have lots to choose from (it looks like the first one he did was something called Setup, which came out in 2011. That movie also featured Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and Ryan Phillippe). Hard Kill is a bizarre experience because, ultimately, while it’s cool that Bruce Willis is in it, there’s no real need for him to be in it. His part could have been played by literally anyone and the movie would have likely turned out exactly the same. And outside of the big check he probably got for doing the movie, I can’t imagine why Willis agreed to do it in the first place. I mean, I guess it’s possible that Willis just likes making movies and, if the check clears, he’ll do it because he really doesn’t have anything else going on in his life. That could be true. Maybe. And, yeah, it’s a bizarre movie, but I also kind of liked Hard Kill.

Hard Kill actually stars Jesse Metcalfe as Derek Miller, a badass ex-Special Forces operator turned good guy mercenary. Miller and his team of fellow ex-Special Forces operators turned good guy mercenaries (Swen Temmel, who plays Dash Hawkins, Jon Galanis, who plays Harrison Zinder, and Natalie Eva Marie, who plays Sasha Zindel) are hired by Donovan Chalmers (Willis), a big time tech CEO that wants Miller’s team as his personal security detail for a sensitive negotiation inside of an abandoned factory out in the middle of nowhere. At first, Miller and his team are skeptical about the job because it sounds like bullshit. Why would a guy like Chalmers, who has more money than God, want to hire a team like Miller’s when he could afford to have his own private army? And why the hell is Chalmers negotiating anything out in an abandoned building? Miller’s team is convinced to do the job after talking with Nick Fox (Texas Battle), who works for Chalmers as head of security. Fox and Miller were old buddies back in the day and, hey, if Fox says the job is legit and no big deal then it’s legit and no big deal. Nothing will go wrong.

So Miller and his team escort Chalmers and Fox out to the abandoned factory in the middle of nowhere and immediately find out that the stated job was actually a cover story for what Chalmers really needs Miller’s team for. Chalmers, who runs a big deal cutting edge tech firm, was working on a super artificial intelligence thing called Project 725 with his daughter, the brilliant Eva Chalmers (Lala Kent). Project 725 is supposed to be so cutting edge that could help solve many of the world’s most pressing problems. The project could also, if it fell into the wrong hands, cause mass devastation. Assuming that her father’s business won’t use Project 725 for good, Eva apparently took Project 725 and gave it to noted world terrorist mastermind The Pardoner (Sergio Rizzuto), who, for some reason, Eva believes isn’t a terrorist mastermind (she learns pretty damn quick that she was wrong about the Pardoner). The Pardoner is set to meet Chalmers at the abandoned factory and negotiate, and Chalmers hopes that Miller’s team will kill the Pardoner before anything really bad happens.

As soon as Miller’s team finds out what’s really going on Miller’s team freaks the fuck out. They didn’t prepare for taking on a bad guy like the Pardoner (they know that he’s going to have an army with him because he always has an army with him), they don’t have the guns or the people to deal with a big skirmish, and they just don’t like being lied to. But, because they’re badasses and all, Miller’s team decides to make do with what they have on hand and they agree to take on the Pardoner’s army, rescue Eva, and get back Project 725 before the Pardoner destroys the world. On top of that, Miller has history with the Pardoner, as they met on the battlefield at some point in the past (Miller’s back still has shrapnel and whatnot in it from their big confrontation), so this whole thing is also personal.

And so the rest of the movie is Miller’s mercenary team fighting off The Pardoner’s army, engaging in various gun battles and whatnot and retreating to a sort of fortified room in the factory where they can regroup. As for Chalmers, Miller tries to hide him where he can’t be seen by the Pardoner, but that plan only works for so long. Chalmers, also a former soldier, wants to get in the fight himself and go head on against the Pardoner’s army.

And so more gunfights happen, there are fights and explosions, Chalmers is eventually captured, and people start dying, both main characters and faceless henchmen. Will The Pardoner use Project 725 to destroy the world, or will Miller and his team be able to stop him?

Hard Kill moves at a super deliberate pace, which works at the beginning of the movie as the plot is set up, and towards the end because we get to see Miller and his team take out plenty of The Pardoner’s henchmen. The deliberate pace causes the movie to drag in the middle, though, and that’s going to be the part of the movie that people are going to hate the most. There’s some good action stuff here but there just isn’t enough of it. It’s almost like the movie is stalling to try to draw out the suspense of the action kicking in again. There’s certainly nothing wrong with an action movie “taking a breather,” but Hard Kill’s breather just goes on for far too long.

The Project 725 artificial intelligence thing is also a bit hard to take, mostly because, if it’s as life changing as Chalmers and company claim, there’s no way the government or the military aren’t snooping around and looking to take a piece of it themselves. If the Project 725 caused a plane to crash, that fact would be all the justification the government would need to try to claim it for itself. So where is the super-secret team of government agents trying to take Project 725, too?

And, as I said earlier, the presence of Bruce Willis in this movie is just bizarre. Outside of providing a name to put on the poster or the DVD case or whatever, there’s no real reason for Bruce Willis to be in this movie. The Chalmers character could literally be played by anyone. I’m going to assume that a sort of justification for having Willis play the character is since Chalmers has a military background and Brice Willis is a world famous action star it makes sense to have him play Chalmers. The audience will believe it/buy into it. I don’t think that will be the case, though, because Brice Willis doesn’t really do anything with the part. Chalmers is just some rich guy played by Bruce Willis. Literally anyone could have played Chalmers. Anyone. So why have him in the movie at all?


Bruce Willis also looks bored out of his goddamn mind through the entire movie. He’s just going through the motions. Is this really what a typical low budget action movie featuring Brice Willis Bruce Willis performance is? If it is, how the hell has this scheme gone on for as long as it has? Why hasn’t the low budget action movie fanbase abandoned Bruce Willis in droves? Steven Seagal, Dolph Lundgren, and Jean-Claude Van Damme at least try to make their small movie performances interesting. They don’t just go through the motions, collect their check, and move on to the next one. So what the hell is Brice Willis’s excuse? Is there something I’m missing here?


Jesse Metcalfe showed up, though, and does a terrific job as Derek Miller. Metcalfe embraces the idea of being a badass good guy mercenary, always carries himself as an honorable guy, and never phones it in. Even when he has to deliver weak dialogue slowly and deliberately you still believe in him. I know that Metcalfe is well known for his character on Desperate Housewives and he’s recently made a bit of a name for himself in Hallmark movies and TV shows (he’s going to be on the next season of Dancing with the Stars), but I’d like to see him do more of this kind of movie. I don’t see why Derek Miller can’t have a low budget action movie franchise. The character is cool enough and Metcalfe does a good enough job to warrant it. I’d definitely watch another Derek Miller mission.


Natalie Eva Marie does an okay job as Sasha Zindel. She knows how to play a badass character and she clearly has the look and the athletic background to be considered legit, but for some reason her dialogue is so boring. And, no, it’s isn’t that she’s speaking slowly and deliberately, it’s that Sasha isn’t given much to say. The same goes for Lala Kent, who plays Eva Chalmers. You would think Eva would seem smarter, maybe even wittier, than everyone else in the movie. She isn’t. She’s just another actor saying her lines. And why doesn’t she have any chemistry with Brice Willis? It’s just a weird as hell situation to be in.

Texas Battle is kind of interesting as Nick Fox, the head of security for Chalmers. Like Metcalfe, he seems to know and understand that he’s in an action movie and things need to move faster/quicker. If only more of the characters could have been allowed to follow his lead and been interesting.

Sergio Rizzuto does a decent enough job as the lead villain The Pardoner. In one sense, I like that he’s cool, calm, and collected, but at the same time I kind of wish he got a little crazier as the movie went on. He yells a couple of times, revealing The Pardoner’s sort of anarchist mindset, but there just isn’t enough of that kind of thing. When you want to wreck the world simply because you hate the world, there’s nothing wrong with going a little batshit at the end. Rizzuto does have a nice fight scene with Metcalfe, though.

The movie’s action scenes are all well done and reasonably exciting. There’s a nice mix of gun battles, hand-to-hand brawls, and explosions to keep the audience’s attention. The gun battles are appropriately loud, and the one-on-one fights are, on occasion, brutal. The movie’s soundtrack, put together by Rhyan D’Errico, is great, especially the theme that plays over the end credits. Now that’s what action movies need: themes.

I also want to commend the actual abandoned factory location. It actually looks pretty good and exactly like the kind of place you engage in a secret shootout. Because, really, no one in their right mind would ever go there just to go there. Even if you owned the property I doubt you’d ever step foot there. It’s a perfect set for the movie.

Even with its persistent oddness and totally unnecessary star power, I actually like Hard Kill. It isn’t necessarily anything special, but it’s solid enough to be entertaining. It should definitely be faster and livelier, but it’s worth checking out if you’re a fan of low budget action flicks. And you should probably see it if you’re one of those Bruce Willis completists. You know who you are. Me? I think I’m going to seek out a few more of these low budget, direct-to-video Bruce Willis movies. I don’t think I’m going to do a marathon anytime soon, but I know I want to see more of them. But which ones? And how many new ones are we going to get? How many more of these movies does Bruce Willis have in him?

I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

See Hard Kill. See it, see it, see it.


So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: At least 20.

Explosions: A few.

Nudity?: None.

Doobage: New York, multiple armed men, shell shock, visible back wound scars, a flashback, gun cleaning, a watch with a buckle/elastic band, snow, a stretched SUV limo, background on the plot and whatnot, a bar, a mega ass kicking, talk of VIP protection, an abandoned factory out in the middle of nowhere, lying, a safe space, neck breaking, throat slitting, more background on the plot, weapons collection, blow torch hooey, dead body dragging, a big shootout, wound fixing, an attempted reconciliation, an ass kicking, a wicked head shot, tunnels, a hidden camera setup, walkie talkie breaking, talk of blueprints, camera shooting, rifle butt to the head, dead body policing, grenade hooey, another shootout, multiple instances of regrouping, sniper killing, gun smashed across the face, secret code hooey, a full on hand-to-hand brawl, ducks floating in the water, and an awesome end credits theme.

Kim Richards?: None.

Gratuitous: Jesse Metcalfe, Bruce Willis, Brice Willis looking bored out of his fucking mind, male bonding guy talk, “lots of zeroes,” Natalie Eva Marie, a drunk fat guy, shots, a group of mercenaries yelling out “Oooah!” in a bar, Bruce Willis with a .45 magnum, the personal manifesto of the bad guy, putting pressure on a wound, Rubik’s cube, a disguise, night vision, the bad guy explaining that his name is taken from The Canterbury Tales, a first aid kit, Jesse Metcalfe going apeshit with a knife, failsafe hooey, at least 22 executive producers, and an awesome end credits theme.

Best lines: “Is that it? Project 725?,” “Derek Miller,” “Spoken like a true soldier,” “Hey, Fox. Yes sir? Walk Derek through the proposal,” “If we do this we do this my way,” “You are an asshole. This should be interesting,” “Is this some sort of revenge thing?,” “Do we have to bring the corporate stooge?,” “So, this was all a set up?,” “Of all people, I expected you to understand,” “Don’t worry about me, soldier. Just get my little girl. Okay?,” “Time to shake off the rust, buddy,” “My Dad isn’t here, is he?,” “Nice to see you again, Miller. How’s the back?,” “What’s Project 725?,” “Greed is the root of all pain, of all suffering, of all evil,” “Come on, you sonofabitch,” “That’s my brother’s dead body out there!,” “If we get out of here I want you to tell me why you still have that ring on,” “Project 725 is dead,” “Don’t underestimate my daughter. She’s full of surprises,” “Please explain to me how you lost her,” “I want to use Project 725 to save the world. He wants to use it to burn it down,” “Any time now. Trying not to get electrocuted, boss,” “Oh, Jesus Christ, you’re hit!,” “You should know by now that I don’t listen to you,” “This is all my fault. But I’m gonna fix it,” “Tell me! Tell me you motherfucker! Now!,” “At the push of a button, everything changes,” “Got any more fancy words to say?,” and “Are you okay? Do I look okay?”

Rating: 7.0/10.0


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Things to Watch Out For


Widow’s Point: Widow’s Point is the absolutely fantastic ghost movie that I saw at last year’s Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival during its world premiere (check out my review here), and it’s the movie that I did a set visit for in the summer of 2018 (scroll down and you’ll see the link for that). And now it’s on DVD, available at your local Walmart as well as Amazon and Deep Discount (it’s also available on demand via various on demand outfits). If you’re a horror movie fan, a terrific movie fan, a fan of star Craig Sheffer, a fan of writer/director Gregory Lamberson, you absolutely need to see Widow’s Point. It will blow you away. It will get under your skin. It really is a masterpiece. So what the heck are you waiting for? Get your copy now! Check it out on demand! See Widow’s Point! See it! See it! See it! Own it! Own it! Own it!


Rogue: This is the new action horror flick from director M.J. Bassett and stars Megan Fox (yes, the Megan Fox) and Philip Winchester. Basically, it’s a movie about a team of badass mercenaries, led by Fox’s character, who go on a rescue mission in Africa and end up being attacked by terrorists, criminals, and a bunch of lions. Check out my interview with Bassett here, and then check the movie out. Will this movie lead to more badass roles for Fox? I guess we’ll see soon enough. Hopefully I’ll have a review for this flick at some point in the near future.


Deep Blue Sea 3: This is the third movie in the Deep Blue Sea franchise (who the hell ever thought that would be a thing back when the first movie, directed by Renny Harlin, came out back in 1999? I know I didn’t) and the second direct-to-video sequel, as Deep Blue Sea 2 must have done bang up business to warrant another one. I still haven’t seen that second one, so hopefully, with this third one I’ll find the personal need to check it out. Low budget shark movies are always fun, even when they’re absolutely ridiculous, and this new one seems to exist on the cusp of being ridiculous and scary. I mean, that’s what the trailer suggests. I have no idea if the actual movie is that way or not. Will we see a Deep Blue Sea 4 in the near future? It would seem to be very possible, wouldn’t you say?


One Night in Bangkok: The great Mark Dacascos stars in this low budget action flick that sounds like a riff on the Tom Cruise/Jamie Foxx movie Collateral. Dacascos plays a hitman who hires someone to drive him around Bangkok so he can kill people he’s been hired to kill. Kane Kosugi is also in the movie and it seems like he’s playing a cop or something and he’s looking for the Dacascos hitman character. It’s almost two hours long, which worries me (low budget action movies are always at their best when they’re around 90 minutes or less), but if Dacascos and Kosugi get to throw down in the movie that’ll make the whole thing worth it. Definitely want to check this out.


Next Issue: It’s the low budget crime flick Rook!


Check out my Widow’s Point set visit!

Read it here!



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Well, I think that’ll be about it for now. Don’t forget to sign up with disqus if you want to comment on this article and any other 411 article. You know you want to, so just go do it.

B-movies rule. Always remember that.

Hard Kill

Jesse Metcalfe– Derek Miller
Bruce Willis– Donovan Chalmers
Lala Kent– Eva Chalmers
Natalie Eva Marie– Sasha Zindel
Texas Battle– Nick Fox
Sergio Rizzuto– The Pardoner
Swen Temmel– Dash Hawkins
Jon Galanis– Harrison Zindel

(check out the rest of the cast here)

Directed by Matt Eskandari
Screenplay by Joe Russo and Chris LaMont, based on a story by Clayton Haugen and Nikolai From

Distributed by Vertical Entertainment

Rated R for violence and language throughout.
Runtime– 98 minutes

Buy it here

All Hard Kill images courtesy of Vertical Entertainment