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The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: Silencer

June 20, 2019 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #511: Silencer

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that has never deliberately worn a baseball hat backwards for more than an hour (I just don’t like the way it looks), The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number five hundred and eleven, I take a look at the low budget action flick Silencer, starring Johnny Messner, Tito Ortiz, Chuck Lidell, and Danny Trejo, which hit home video in early September, 2018.



Silencer, directed by Timothy Woodward, Jr., is an oddly compelling yet ultimately unsatisfying low budget action flick that should be a classic but, sadly, isn’t. The main cast just oozes badassness, but for whatever reason the movie fails to actually utilize that badassness to its fullest potential. Instead of a modern classic, Silencer is a frustrating movie watching experience. It’s watchable, sure, and the badassness that we do get is fun to experience, but the movie holds itself back way too much.

Silencer stars Johnny Messner as Frank, a badass former Special Forces sniper who, after botching a sensitive mission in, I guess, Iraq, becomes a much sought after hitman-for-hire in the southwest U.S. criminal underworld. After spending several years killing people for money and whatnot and gaining the nickname “The Silencer,” Frank retires from the hitman business, starts working at a garage, fixing up old cars for a living, and tries to settle down with his girlfriend Cass (Nikki Leigh) and her young daughter Shannon (Kai Scarlett Williams). Frank has frequent nightmares about the nasty shit he’s done in his life, especially while in Special Forces (the mission that caused him to leave the service will likely disgust you), and he has a serious drinking problem. Frank tries to do the AA meeting thing, but he doesn’t really embrace the program (it’s just not for him, I guess). One day, one of Frank’s former clients/bosses, cartel leader Ocha (Danny Trejo), tries to reconnect with him (Frank fixes Ocha’s old car), but Frank wants to stay retired. Ocha understands and doesn’t push the issue, but the “job offer” is still out there in the event he wants to get back in. Frank just wants to keep living his quiet, non-killer life.

The next day, Frank is compelled by his old friend/Ocha henchman Lazarus (the immortal Robert LaSardo) to come talk with Ocha as Ocha has a big job that only Frank can handle. Frank isn’t interested, but he goes to see Ocha anyway. Frank finds out that Ocha’s granddaughter Nikki (Sofia Esmaili) was killed while riding her bike, and Ocha wants Frank to kill the driver of the car that killed Nikki. Frank tries to get Ocha to “let it go,” but then Ocha vaguely threatens Frank’s new family and he up and decides to work for Ocha one last time. And Frank makes sure that Ocha understands that this is it, this is his absolute last job. Frank gets the necessary information on his target, and prepares to become The Silencer again.

Now, while all of this is going on, Frank is also dealing with Cass, who is pissed that Frank is fucking around with people she doesn’t know but can tell are no good. Frank has a tendency to shut down when Cass is upset and not express himself or his feelings, and not knowing what’s going on insider her man’s head frustrates and terrifies her. At the same time, Frank doesn’t want to involve his family in any of his past bad guy shit as it’s just awful. Frank is also on the verge of drinking again, something he doesn’t want to happen.

So Frank goes to a junkyard, retrieves his “The Silencer” equipment, uncovers his badass yellow muscle car that, I guess, he used as his car when he killed people professionally, and goes to kill the guy that killed Ocha’s granddaughter. It should be an easy job. Should be. Frank can’t do it, though. He just doesn’t have that old killer instinct anymore. As he drives away from not killing his target, we find out that Ocha has had henchmen watching Frank’s every move and because Frank couldn’t do what Ocha wanted him to Ocha’s henchmen are going to have to capture and kill the guy that needs to die. Ocha’s henchmen do just that, and Ocha decides that Frank needs to be taught a lesson. Ocha sends Lazarus after Cass and Shannon, nearly killing Cass and kidnapping Shannon out of her bedroom. Frank will pay for not fulfilling his assignment.

So then some stuff happens, Frank gets Cass to a hospital, and Frank decides that he needs to find that killer instinct again and rescue Shannon and take down Ocha’s operation. How the hell is he going to do that, though? Frank calls in his old Special Forces buddy and sometimes AA sponsor/partner/whatever Timothy (Tito Ortiz) to help him out with this. Timothy immediately agrees to help, and Frank and Timothy come up with a plan. Timothy also does his best to keep Frank from drinking again, as Frank really, really, really wants to start downing alcohol in large quantities.

So then some more stuff happens, Timothy stops Frank from completely destroying himself with alcohol (Frank succumbs to his need to drink and has to start over with his sobriety), and they come up with their big plan. They’re going to travel the U.S/Mexico border and destroy Ocha’s businesses one by one (drug distribution buildings, a strip club, stuff like that). They’re also going to find out where the hell Ocha is staying (is he still in the U.S. or did he go back to Mexico?) and they’re going to rescue Shannon and kill Ocha once and for all. Will their big plan work?

One of the big issues with Silencer is its super deliberate pace. It isn’t really slow, but the movie would have definitely benefitted from a brisker tone. The movie’s action would have played better with a faster pace. The movie also lacks any good hand-to-hand brawls, which is insane considering Tito Ortiz and Chuck Lidell are both in the cast. I mean, having two real deal badass fighters in your action movie, they have to fight. That’s Action Movie 101. It doesn’t happen in Silencer. Again, that’s insane.

Now, the action we do get, the stuff that I would call the “good stuff,” is generally well done and you can see most of it (there’s a quick gun battle at night that gets a little hard to follow, but then it is night time in the middle of nowhere so odds are no one would be able to see anything anyway). The gun play that we get is decent enough, and the CGI blood looks decent. The best looking action scene in the whole movie is a gun attack on a police car after Frank fails at his mission. The way the car is completely destroyed is brutal as hell and really looks like significant carnage.

Johnny Messner does a good job as Frank, the retired and troubled ex-Special Forces sniper turned hitman. You can tell just by the way Messner stands in most of his non-badass scenes that he’s a man dealing with serious internal issues at all times. And when the prospect of alcohol rears its ugly head, you can see Messner struggling with whether or not he should break his sobriety and have a drink. Messner handles himself well in his action duties, and he can stand, cinematically, toe-to-toe with guys like Lidell and Ortiz. My only real complaint with his performance is his voice. Messner seems to whisper through most of the movie, and it’s annoying when you can’t hear what the hell he’s saying. I get that he’s damaged and contemplative and all that, but I should still be able to hear him when he speaks. Messner is the star, his dialogue is important.

Tito Ortiz is a damn good friend as Timothy, Frank’s best buddy in the whole world. He’s exactly the kind of guy you want backing you up when the shit hits the fan. Ortiz has a viable screen presence and, if he wants to, he could carry a movie. He should have had more action and fight scenes, though. Again, he should have fought Lidell in a big scene but he didn’t. Still, god work from Ortiz.

Chuck Lidell is a hoot as Nelson “Nels” Salvatore, one of Ocha’s henchmen. Nels is wacked out and, maybe, high on drugs all of the time, although there’s also a chance that he’s one of those “smart” stupid thugs that pop up in action movies from time to time. He’s an awful person, sure, but he’s a guy that you want to watch anyway. His final scene is a highlight of the movie. There’s also a scene where Lidell has a parrot on his shoulder. Why? Damned if I know. It just looked cool? Lidell needs his own low budget action franchise.

Danny Trejo is brilliant as Ocha, the cartel boss and distraught/doting grandfather. You know that he’s a bad guy, the main bad guy in the movie, and that he’s always going to be up to no good, but his love for his granddaughter and his need to spoil her is just infectious to experience. And when his granddaughter dies and Ocha wants revenge, you actually feel bad for him. And when he kidnaps Frank’s kid Shannon and tries to take care of her like he took care of his own granddaughter, holy shit, you end up loving the guy. It’s little roles like these that show you, just in case you didn’t know, that Trejo is a versatile performer and he can do way more than you think he can. Trejo can make you love one of the worst people in the world. That’s goddamn talent.
Robert LaSardo does his usual fine job as main Ocha henchman Lazarus. We’ve seen him play this kind of character before, multiple times, so he doesn’t really do anything new here, but LaSardo is always a pleasure to watch so it doesn’t really matter if he’s doing something new or something we’ve all seen a million times.

Nikki Leigh has good chemistry with Messner as Frank’s girlfriend Cass. She’s been too much shit in her relationship with Frank, but she sticks around anyway because she loves him for some reason. And Kai Scarlett Williams does a decent job as Shannon, “Frank’s kid.”

It’s the performances that make Silencer watchable and compelling. It’s lacking in the action department (Ortiz and Lidell should have a big hooha brawl) and it doesn’t use all of the tools at its disposal, which is just frustrating. Silencer should be so much more than it is. So much more. It’s still worth checking out. I believe it’s on Netflix at the moment. It’s also on DVD, maybe at your local Walmart.

See Silencer. It’s frustrating, it’s not the classic that it should be, but it’s just watchable enough to, you know, watch. So give it a watch.

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: At least 20.

Explosions: A few small ones.

Nudity?: None, and that’s really strange as there’s a shower scene and a scene in a strip club where there’s no striping going on. What the heck is the deal with that?

Doobage: Humvees, choppers, grenade attack, sniper hooey, booze, an AA meeting, hand washing, a gold switchblade, an envelope full of money, multiple instances of guy shit, a flashback, car shit, Christmas tree hooey, off screen kid killing, cigarette smoking, beer drinking, junkyard hooey, a sweet muscle car, more sniper hooey, total cop car destruction, a shower that’s nothing more than a fucking tease, good suspense in a home invasion, face kicking, scissors to the arm, bullet to the kidney, blood barfing, bullet to the head, kidnapping, a bar fight, a guy who really looks like a drunk Santa, fast food hooey, a deserted house, serious booze drinking, a brief drug factory shootout, a tray of fruit, grape attack, chick banging, pistol whipping, blood spitting, testicle kicking, shoulder stabbing, knife to the head, more head shots, grenade launcher hooey, a wicked shot to the head, shotgun attack, finger biting, pocket knife throwing, and an odd ending.

Kim Richards?: Big time.

Gratuitous: Johnny Messner, Tito Ortiz, male jock bullshit talk, Johnny Messner going to an AA meeting but refusing to participate, Chuck Lidell, Robert LaSardo, booze, Danny Trejo, Danny Trejo as a doting grandfather, Danny Trejo doing a pinky promise, Chuck Lidell teaching a little girl how to ride her bike, Johnny Messner using a rotary phone, Tito Ortiz taking his sweet fucking time answering the phone, arts and crafts, Danny Trejo telling a story about when he was ten years old, a bed time story, homophobia, Chuck Lidell with a parrot on his shoulder for absolutely no reason at all, Mexico, and an odd ending.

Best lines: “The American pigs are coming!,” “This guy is a terrorist and he gets a free pass? This is political bullshit!,” “Nels, I got this,” “Fucking grease monkey,” “Hey, boss. Frank’s here,” “What the fuck? Why do I always gotta be the errand boy?,” “I’m a leg and ass man,” “I got two words for you. The Silencer,” “Frank, what’s going on?,” “Mom, stop yelling at me,” “Motherfucker,” “Goodnight, Frank. I love you,” “Lenny, don’t trust anyone if you want to survive,” “This calls for The Silencer,” “You can’t escape who you are, Frank. None of us can,” “Death kind of puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?,” “How’s the kid doing, dude?,” “What the fuck are you doing? Drinking,” “Ah, my sandwich!,” “It looks like they left in a hurry,” “Do I look like I got a fucking death wish?,” “Hey, you think God is going to forgive us for this?,” “Jesus Christ, don’t you have any real food around this place?,” “Relax, Dracula. Frank’s dog meat,” “Motherfucker, I’m gonna fuck your babies!,” “Kind of young, huh? Like I told ya, there ain’t no such thing,” “Hey, Les. Not looking so good, buddy,” “Shannon, let’s go home,” and “Hi, my name is Frank.”

Rating: 6.5/10.0


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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.

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Johnny Messner– Frank
Tito Ortiz– Timothy
Chuck Lidell– Nelson “Nels” Salvatore
Danny Trejo– Ocha
Robert LaSardo– Lazarus
Nikki Leigh– Cass
Kai Scarlett Williams– Shannon

(check out the rest of the cast here

Directed by Timothy Woodward, Jr.
Screenplay by Sean Mick

Distributed by Cinedigm

Not Rated
Runtime– 88 minutes

Buy it here.