Nantucket holds great cultural significance. The entire island is a designated a National Landmark District and it appears in classics like Melville’s Moby-Dick and Poe’s Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym. Strategically, it is not so important, but it is the summer home to many rich people, like Tillie Gardner’s father and mother. Tragically, her parents were murdered by a terrorist angered by her dad’s work as FBI spokesman. Now his killer is coming for her in Andrzej Bartkowiak’s Dead Reckoning, which releases Tuesday on DVD.
Technically, Agent Cantrell did not want to kill Marco’s father, because he wanted to interrogate the terrorist about his big plans, but the bust got violent, so he did what he had to do. Gardner’s dad spinned the incident as best he could on TV, angering the terrorist’s son Marco well past reason. He sabotaged the Gardners’ plane and intends to execute the rest of the family and then place a bomb on the beach to massacre Nantucket’s rich and idle revelers on the 4th of July.
However, he will take a short timeout to reconnect with his younger brother Niko, who happens to be on the island working a summer job to make money for college. Rather awkwardly, Niko also happens to be Gardner’s new boyfriend. He seems a lot more substantial than her shallow party-preppy crowd and they are both orphans. At least Gardner still has her protective aunt Jennifer Crane and her partner, as well as her godfather, Agent Cantrell. Niko just has Marco, but probably not for long.
Any film co-starring both Scott Adkins and James Remar ought to beyond awesome, but sadly, Bartkowiak did not come close to fully exploiting their potential. Nevertheless, there is no question their brutal fight scene is the film’s far-and-away best scene. Seeing Adkins flexing his villainous muscles again reminds us how good he is as dark, brooding bad guys. Likewise, Remar is gritty and appealingly gristly as Agent Cantrell.
Romeo & Juliet) and K.J. Apa are the leads of Dead Reckoning. They have zero chemistry together as Gardner and Niko, nor do their characters display much intuition. They just mope around like drippy teenagers, while the grown-ups try to perpetrate or avert an act of large-scale terrorism. Their star-crossed romance is just hopelessly boring.
Dead Reckoning has issues, but it is still a dramatic improvement over Bartkowiak’s last film, the unwatchable Maximum Impact, starring questionable Russian action star Alexander Nevsky. It was quite a nadir, especially considering Bartkowiak served as the cinematographer of some big, critically-acclaimed films, such as The Verdict, Death Trap, Terms of Endearment, Prizzi’s Honor, Falling Down, and Speed. Thankfully, Adkins and Remar are rock-solid. There just isn’t enough of them. Dead Reckoning still isn’t recommended when it releases Tuesday (1/19) on DVD, but if you come across it streaming someplace, fast-forward to the Adkins-Remar throwdown.