Thursday, December 14, 2023

Ruthless: Dermot Mulroney vs. Human Traffickers

Weirdly politicized critics might not acknowledge human trafficking is a problem, but the sound of money is likely to produce a lot of Sound of Freedom knock-offs, wherein human traffickers are brought to justice. That means the timing should be nice for this payback thriller, which was probably well on its way when the Jim Caviezel hit released. The victims are a little older, but the crime of trafficking is still unforgivably vile in Art Camacho’s Ruthless, which releases tomorrow on VOD.

Wrestling coach Harry Sumner is still reeling from the murder of his daughter, so he is not inclined to ignore clear signs of physical abuse on his student, Catia Madson. Since the principal discourages making an official report, Coach Sumner pays a not so friendly visit to her mother’s thuggish boyfriend. Of course, the system protects creeps like Tom, so while the cops are arresting Sumner for breaking his arm, Tom sells Catia to his human trafficking associates.

Fortunately, the decent Det. Chuck Monaghan, who worked his daughter’s case, remembers Sumner and runs sufficient interference to keep him out of jail. Of course, he warns Sumner to stay away from Tom, but the coach has other ideas. Thanks to a few more broken arms, Sumner follows Catia’s trail to Las Vegas, where the slimy Dale Remington auctions teen girls through his luxury boutique hotel.

Camacho’s screenplay (co-written with James Dean Simington, Javier Reyna, and Koji Steven Sakai) is pretty simplistic and formulaic, but lead actor Dermot Mulroney treats these dead-serious themes with the respect and gravity they deserve. He burns with moral outrage and traumatic grief. Mulroney works a lot and
Ruthless is probably not even his most prestigious release of the week, but he is able to really identify with and express Sumner’s inner angst.

Jeff Fahey also makes a colorfully reliable villain as Remington. Mauricio Mendoza is aptly slimy as Tom, the boyfriend, but the rest of the bad guys are blandly unmemorable. However, the fight scenes are surprisingly credible, in a gritty, street-level kind of way. It is almost halfway believable that Sumner is a middle-aged badass, because he coaches wrestling and trains in MMA with Martin (played by Texas Battle, who is no stranger to VOD action)—and halfway is good enough for a film like this.

Despite its severely limited budget constraints,
Ruthless primes viewers for cathartic vengeance, which it then duly delivers. It works on its basic, primal level. Recommended for less-faith-based fans of Sound of Freedom, Ruthless releases tomorrow (12/15) on digital and on-demand.