Review: MARAUDERS, No Better or Worse Than Your Average Crime Thriller
On the surface, Steven C. Miller's Marauders is yet another movie about a gang of crooks and the determined lawmen tracking them down. It really wants you to think otherwise, though; its loftier aim is to be the next Heat.
The story is about a gang of hi-tech robbers targeting the banks belonging to rich asshole Jeffrey Hubert (Bruce Willis in a beard). And yes, it's all part of a deeper conspiracy. Standing in the way are a team of FBI agents led by the hardass Montgomery (Christopher Meloni), which includes the rookie played by Adrian Grenier (so this is what Vincent Chase's career prospects look like), the hulking Dave Bautista, mostly sitting behind a desk cracking jokes, and a roided-out Johnathon Schaech as a burned out dirty cop with a conscience.
The movie's crime is attempting to do too much at once. It's an orgiastic mess of subplots which involves, among other things, a team of former soldiers gone rogue, crooked politicians, Montgomery's haunted past, and so on. Even Schaech's cop on the edge has to deal with a terminally ill wife. It's hard to maintain coherence in a movie this busy, which goes all over the place and overcomplicates a simple "cops and robbers" setup for no reason.
You can't really fault the cast for this, though; Meloni, a solid actor who deserves more recognition and better roles than he usually gets, gives it his all as a badass fed and keeps things interesting, whether he's barking orders at his minions or having a staring contest with Willis. Schaech, meanwhile, is one of the few truly conflicted characters with an arc to follow here.
Now it's time to talk about Bruce Willis. The once great action star has in recent years been stuck in mid-to-low budget actioners where he looks and acts bored, shows up for maybe two or three scenes which he probably shot in a day, and is clearly in it for the paycheck. His recent run of dreck like Setup, Catch 44, Vice, The Prince, Extraction and Precious Cargo, are a sad reminder of Willis' current prospects. Let's put it this way: if his career were Dante's Inferno, Bruce is on his way to the fifth or sixth Level of Hell by now.
Marauders does nothing to reverse the actor's fortunes; it's yet another action movie that snagged him for a couple days' filming in order to put his name above the marquee and drag in more viewers, regardless of whether he's a good fit for the movie or not. And just like you couldn't buy him as an "Omar" in The Prince, here he's improbably playing the older brother of a guy 20 years his junior who could be his son. In of the few self-aware moments this movie has, one character even points out how ridiculous this sounds. The fact that everyone else is clearly trying just makes Willis look bad.
Director Miller occasionally aces some moments that show the movie this could have been; the bank heists are shot with urgency, grit, and fair amounts of tension (and the skull masks the robbers wear are pretty cool), and the cast does well enough, but overall, Marauders is no better or worse than the innumerable crime thrillers you can find on the DTV circuit.
Marauders opens in theaters and is available on VOD on 1 July.