I Am Wrath (2016)
Directed by Chuck Russell
After failing to find a single distributor willing to put it in theaters, John Travolta’s latest action blunder “I Am Wrath” had to settle for straight-to-DVD status, like skin flicks or those Disney princess movie sequels. But after filming throughout Columbus, Ohio, and putting it back on the cine-map (months later, Arnold Schwarzenegger shot his more-anticipated “Aftermath” here), the least the city could do was kick off its 5th annual Film Festival of Columbus with it.
There’s a crime surge in near-future Columbus. The gang violence is off the charts, but Ohio’s Governor Meserve (Patrick St. Espirit) is too busy trying to push his politically-expedient gas pipeline proposal through the state congress to make any effort to curb it. When Stanley Hill’s (John Travolta) wife is murdered in a parking garage, police have no luck getting the guilty gangster behind bars. But Stanley knows exactly who did it, and he’ll use his certain set of skills (he wasn’t always in the auto manufacturing business) to off as many people as it takes to get his justice/revenge. He has the firepower to make it happen. But he’ll need manpower, so he calls on his old friend Dennis (Christopher Meloni)…who wasn’t always a barber.
“I Am Wrath” is a B-movie that thinks it’s something more. That unwarranted sense of confidence has killed better movies than this before. The unoriginal and under-developed script is an unwanted amalgam of any number of action movie plots that came before it, with a few nonsensically provocative moments and plenty of corny dialogue. But even if we ignore the script, written by a couple of guys without much screenwriting experience, we can’t look past the sloppy production value. Some shots are out of focus, and at one point the camera shakes when it’s not supposed to. It’s like they were too lazy, or on too short of a schedule, to reshoot scenes that needed reshot. “I Am Wrath” is the worst action movie of the year so far, deserving of its direct-to-video status.
Even the action scenes, normally a saving grace when the plot is awful, look clumsy and unrehearsed, like even a fight choreographer was too expensive for the movie’s tiny budget. And at 62, Travolta isn’t exactly in his prime. His face is half silicone—you can tell by the horrifying way his smile curls up like The Joker. He’s also grown a gut in middle age, like he’s wearing his bulletproof vest all the time. He’s not at the top of his game. Not that he hasn’t been recently: see “The People vs. OJ Simpson.” On the other hand, his costar Christopher Meloni is clearly loving it. Ever since he left “Law & Order: SVU,” Meloni has just been itching to get back in the field and shoot baddies. And unlike Travolta, it appears that Meloni has bulked up. Even when the action is yawn-worthy, he makes it fun to watch.
Columbus is a great place to shoot your movie. Don’t let “I Am Wrath” turn you off. Travolta’s latest throwaway is a genuinely dull action movie with no distinguishable features, unless you’re living in Columbus and want to see a “John Wick”-inspired club shootout filmed in the local gay bar. Since you won’t have luck finding it in theaters, you can catch “I Am Wrath”—if you’re still so inclined—on Blu-ray and DVD or through digital rental on Amazon.