Not a whole lot makes sense in John Henry or for that matter is remotely entertaining.
It’s a loud, aimless 97-minute exercise in futility with the subtlety of a sledge hammer against the head.
Terry Crews (The Expendables) has the physical presence and charisma to be a lower level action star, the kind that should thrive in the Netflix era. That’s not going to be viable taking many more projects like this one.
Crews plays John Henry, a guy whose day starts off terrible when his dog gets killed. Lest you confuse this with some epic John Wick style revenge piece, the dog’s death was clearly just meant as a quick and dirty way to gain audience sympathy. Sure, John Wick might have been even more emotionally manipulative on that front, but it was to excuse an assassin killing a slew of people. Here, it’s just because it seemed like something to do. That proves a common trend for John Henry.
John helps a young woman, Berta (Jamila Velazquez, West Side Story), as she tries to escape a vicious gang that wanted to pimp her out as a sex slave. Despite the language gap, John is able to communicate with Berta thanks to his father BJ (Ken Foree, Dawn of the Dead) translating. Berta’s brother, Emilio (Joseph Julian Soria) soon arrives to help and John decides the best course of action is to just let some time pass and hope for the best. This strategy shockingly doesn’t prove very effective and the gang’s leader, Hell (Ludacris, The Fate of the Furious), comes gunning for Berta and Emilio.
Imagine a filmmaker shamelessly trying to channel Quentin Tarantino on all fronts from the bombastic score, random camera angles and indulgent conversations. That’s what Director/co-writer Will Forbes attempts with seemingly every desperate scene. Tarantino has earned his rep where he can bask in adulation from even his most grueling naval gazing films.
This is not the future for Will Forbes, who thinks his dialogue is amazing in its laughable attempts to capture the Tarantino flow with endlessly pointless conversations between supporting characters.
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For whatever reason, Forbes and co-writer Doug Skinner opts against a streamlined narrative interjecting choppy flashbacks shot largely from an camcorder in the 90s during John’s formative years as a wannabe gang banger. And it’s a little disappointing Forbes and Skinner couldn’t figure out some clever analogy for John Henry and the steam driller.
Hell’s gang is decked out in white sweatsuits clearly for the sake of the final act to see them drenched in blood. Forbes goes so over the top gratuitous with the violence that it comes off as comedic. There’s no trace of restraint as every scene is an opportunity for Forbes to go big and he’s eager to meet the challenge.
John Henry is a pretty awful movie with little redeeming value besides its mercifully short 91-minute run time. There’s something about John Henry movies that never work out right. At least Shaq doesn’t have to live with the indignity of having the worst John Henry movie now so people can forget his John Henry Irons Steel film based on the DC Comics character. I guess some good came out of this mess after all.
Rating: 1.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: Saban Films