Now, there will undoubtedly be endless commentary about the tediousness of the ‘Family Man Out For Revenge’ trope that is relentlessly rolled out every time an aging actor needs a career boost, but here’s the thing – inexplicably, it often works.
It worked for Liam Neeson with Taken, it worked for Keanu Reeves with John Wick. It even, sort of, worked for Kevin Costner in Three Days To Kill. For all its terrible, predictable flaws, it is possible for this well-worn narrative to succeed – given the right actor, with the right material. Will that be the case with I Am Wrath though? Based on the first trailer, the chances are slim.
In the case of I Am Wrath, John Travolta is the family man. He has a wife and adult daughter, and is just trying to get by. He returns from a trip/job interview, his wife Vivian (Rebecca De Mornay) meets him at the airport, and obviously, she is brutally murdered right in front of him. I say “obviously” because, in almost all cases, the ‘Man Out For Revenge’ movie narrative is motivated by the loss of a woman in a criminal act.
The women are nothing but plot devices. Even in John Wick, where Keanu Reeves is mourning the illness-related death of his wife, it is the fact that his puppy was her parting gift to him that sets off his rampage. The killing of his puppy erases his last connection to her.
But, I digress. Criminals kill John Travolta’s wife and, in his quest for lawful justice, he uncovers a vast conspiracy involving police corruption, and collusion with drug cartels. Incensed, he calls upon his friend (played by Christopher Meloni), who happens to have been trained in some ‘special ops’ kind of way. Unsurprisingly, Travolta also appears to have a shady past, since he has a bag of heavy artillery hidden behind a wall. Cue the inevitable trip to a strip club, and lots of sequences of Travolta dishing out violent retribution amid scantily-clad, writhing women – because that’s how ‘Family Man Out For Revenge’ always pans out.
This movie has been in the ether for some time, and was reported on in 2012 as being a vehicle for Nicolas Cage with William Friedkin possibly directing. As it is, the finished film stars Travolta, and has Chuck Russell (The Mask, The Scorpion King) at the helm. The screenplay is written by Paul Sloan (Vigilante Diaries) – who also appears as a bad guy – and it is from a story by Yvan Gauthier (L.A, I Hate You).
For more info, you can check out the plot summary below.
“Unemployed engineer Stanley Hill (Travolta) witnesses the brutal murder of his wife Vivian (Rebecca De Mornay, TV’s Jessica Jones) who was attacked by thugs in a parking garage. When Detective Gibson (Sam Trammell, True Blood) and other corrupt police officers are unable and unwilling to bring the killers to justice, Stanley turns to his old friend Dennis (Christopher Meloni, Man of Steel, TVs Law & Order) and decides to take matters into his own hands. It is only then that Stanley and Dennis are found to have a mysterious past that, until now, they kept very well hidden. As they wreak their revenge, those involved in the cover up realize that Stanley and Dennis are more dangerous than they could have ever imagined…”
I Am Wrath will be available on VOD from April 15th, and in theatres from May 13th.