Whether you appreciate Nicolas Cage or not, you must recognize this good guy with a bad-boy face (or maybe it was the opposite) never takes a day off in his long career of more than 100 movies, among which is this little unknown gem of 2019 entitled Kill Chain.
It all begins in the heart of an anonymous South American city amidst a rough neighborhood of prostitutes and drug dealers where the decrepit Hotel Franco stands.
Two armed and dangerous men go inside looking for the owner, but dear old Franco seems to have disappeared into thin air.
In his place sits a strange fellow behind the desk smiling while, out of sight, a beautiful half-naked woman covered in blood roams the upper floor.
These assassins seem determined to kill him, yet this guy demands to recount a story before he dies.
The premise of this movie is all here, in one man’s last tale during a long night where many lives intersect in a single fate of blood and violence.
So we have a lone hitman in an apartment near the hotel, filling time by chatting on the phone with his troubled daughter in the United States.
Having to take out for the mysterious Franco, unfortunately, he too realizes of being likewise into a trap under the fire of another sniper.
At the same time, a clash arises between two corrupt policemen who have long worked together exploiting criminals, ending up one against the other because of a stupid misunderstanding.
Finally, we discover one of these two cops is the lover of the beautiful woman we saw at the beginning, in trouble with the most dangerous gang in town.
Will one night be enough to write the final chapter of all these stories of betrayal and revenge?
From first murder to last breath
I understand the first impression Kill Chain might give is of a movie made on the cheap, so much so that we ask Mr. Nicolas Cage if maybe he didn’t have debts to pay or a gun to his head to participate in it in 2019.
However, as we wait only a few minutes, we realize that, in fact, the characters are quite appealing and have something to say, albeit in their stereotypical roles of the cinematic criminal underworld.
So we have the typical femme fatale who is as beautiful as she is deadly, in this case, with the mind-boggling body of the sexy Angie Cepeda, the magnificent protagonist of the entertaining Captain Pantoja and the Special Services, which I had passionately recommended some time ago.
Nic Cage, in the beginning, seems almost a parody of himself. Still, he turns out great in the movie’s second half when all the cards are on the table, and we understand what happens.
All around these two characters is a well-fed ecosystem of hired guns, maniacs, male and female crime bosses, corrupt cops, and bad people raining down from every corner.
The main story is an amalgamation of subplots flowing smoothly one after and within the other, different but maintaining the common thread of this crime mood that mixes muscular American-style action and French neo-noir like Olivier Marchal‘s movies.
I am dubious about judging the technical compartment, which sometimes seems not up to the script and the excellent acting of the actors.
Especially about photography and general staging, because in some outdoor locations, it seemed unconvincing, while in the interiors, such as Hotel Franco, the union of colors, darkness, and filth works much better.
Considering the movie’s low budget, however, they are minor flaws that we can easily ignore.
When the chain breaks, only the smartest survive
Undoubtedly, it must have been painful for Ken Sanzel, the director and screenwriter of Kill Chain, to face the skeptical judgment expressed by movie critics in 2019.
Nevertheless, in this particular circumstance, I share the opinion of the public rather than the critics.
Exploring the wide range of comments on various social media and websites, I noticed numerous people share my sentiments.
Although first impressions may leave some doubtful, the movie turns out to be a solid and satisfying experience, with several unexpected twists and turns to change the narrative perspective.
The plot improves dramatically as the progress events, describing a world without frills and with the characters always short-cutting, choosing violence over reason.
Personally, my reaction during watching went from initial skepticism to growing appreciation for the talent and passion brought to the screen by the actors and director.
Each of the various intertwining adventures has a carefully definite beginning and end, each with its own importance in the overall picture of the main story.
It is only by coming to the end of the film that we can fully appreciate the harmony and coherence of all these characters and their miseries and cruelties, where none of them is innocent, and for all, there is a price to pay by coming to a conclusion.
Having said all this, I certainly do not want to claim that Kill Chain is perfect. Indeed several technical issues could be improved with a direction that sometimes seems television-quality (especially in cinematography and editing) instead of a higher cinematic level.
However, Ken Sanzel keeps the pace and interest remarkably intense, jumping from one character and situation to the next and leaving no time for the viewer to dwell too much on any possible flaws.