"The Heavy" has ambition. It also has 18 credited producers, which may be the reason why the film looks manically executed yet remains frustratingly undercooked. The feature strives to be a stylish, unconventional mystery-thriller, but it always comes up short, despite a colorful cast and the blue steel dedication of its fist-first star, Gary Stretch.
Struggling to piece his life back together after surviving a stint in prison and the death of his daughter, Boots (Gary Stretch) takes jobs as a mob enforcer, working for wicked kingpin, Mr. Anawalt (Stephen Rea). Offered a huge sum of money to confront a mysterious target, Boots soon finds himself in the presence of an unlikely witness (Shannyn Sossamon), while Detective Dunn (Vinnie Jones) prowls the streets hunting for clues, looking for any opportunity to exact revenge on Boots for a prior disfiguring encounter. Also troubling the brute's mind is a reunion with his estranged brother, Christian (Adrian Paul), who's running for Prime Minister, yet remains thwarted by a medical ailment that only Boots can help cure.
"The Heavy" seeks to make Gary Stretch a star. A British boxer with a history of small supporting roles in forgettable films, Stretch looks to assume a Stathamesque career trajectory, using this picture to display his way with limited expressions of concern and his ease with weaponry and stunts. With those limited goals in mind, Stretch maintains a commendable hold on the picture's modest design for thrills, agreeably working the frame with communicative body language and a believable way with a gun. It's not a stunning example of thespian might, but Stretch delivers in small doses, working around the film's sample-sized offering of intrigue with an unanticipated comfort.
Of course, Stretch is backed up by a list of famous faces to simplify his job, with writer/director Marcus Warren calling in a host of favors to bring around the likes of Christopher Lee (as Boots's desperate father), Sadie Frost, Rea, Paul, and Jean Marsh. It's just enough dazzle to make a noticeable difference, with the known cast members able to supply some character to the piece, especially Rea as the central terror of the story. Also adding a dash of marquee value is trance DJ Paul Oakenfold, who contributes a few thumpy tunes to keep the energy flowing, backing up the chase with his funky beats.
"The Heavy" offers a twisty screenplay of expected reveals, as Boots finds his latest criminal activity is far more complicated than he originally bargained for. Unfortunately, Warren doesn't relax and allow the left turns to sink in, preferring to shellac the film in useless visual gloss as a way of seizing interest. The cinematography calls attention to itself as it quakes and swings around the actors, creating a false sense of tension that should rightfully originate from the script, not an overly caffeinated cameraman. There's even a bullet-time shootout sequence, wasting film on outdated gimmicks to compensate for a thin script that didn't contain enough inspiration to pad out an entire feature film.
The anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1 aspect ratio) presentation captures a film shot with harsh HD cameras. The image is colorful, but smeary at times, reflecting the low-budget nature of the film. Some EE is detected, but skintones appear natural, while black levels hold modestly through some difficult evening sequences. The limitations of the image appear inherent to the cinematography, leaving an untidy viewing experience.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital sound mix is a rumbly event, blessed with the Oakenfold soundtrack to keep matters alert. Music sounds alive, feeling out the surround values of the track, lending a few driving sequences a propulsive mood. Dialogue is well tended to, escorted to the front for easiest digestion, while violent encounters offer some welcome surround activity. Scoring is subtle, but effective, called into action when needed.
English and Spanish subtitles are included.
"Lifting 'The Heavy'" (5:19) chats up the stunt work for the film, showcasing how a few key sequences were arranged and executed, explored through on-set footage.
"Just One More Job" (4:21) spotlights character development, using interviews with the cast to illuminate arcs and motivations.
"A Behind the Scene Music Journey" (3:30) is a glorified music video, employing Paul Oakenfold music to score stunt-heavy BTS footage.
"A Heavy Movie Set" (1:32) brings back Oakenfold to score a collection of production stills.
Four T.V. Spots and a Theatrical Trailer are included.
"The Heavy" goes for a whiz-bang finale, rewarding those showing patience with the picture an opportunity to savor a so-so twist ending. Unfortunately, there's not much firepower beyond a few cheap thrills; despite an eye-catching cast, "The Heavy" is a labored misfire, getting Stretch's starring career off on the wrong foot.
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