MPAA Rating: NR (at the time this was reviewed)/ Genre: Crime Thriller/Stars: Sam Anderson, Maynard Bagang, James Ken Blackmon, Verity Branco, DeJean Brown, Chase Cargill, Graham Clarke, Sean Dillingham, Josh Dominguez, Taylor Flowers, Marlene Galan, Latoshia Hill, Heston Horwin, Jennifer Levinson, David Thomas Newman, Frank Oz, Krystel Roche, Michaella Russell, Amy Tolsky/Runtime: 106 minutes
I think it is safe to start this review off by letting you in on a secret that you might already know movie goer. That of course being that as much fun as it is review older movies, a film reviewer like me, myself, and I’s first love will always be getting to sit down and see a new slice of cinematic pie that is set to be shown before the masses at some point in time or another, but has nevertheless yet to drop in theaters for them to watch. No it’s not because I get to know all the secrets that a much-anticipated film can hold and no it’s not because of the potential bragging rights that come with being the first to see a movie before anyone else. Rather, it’s honestly because I love movies with a thriving passion and whenever a new one is announced that catches my interest I am always excited to see what new story is about to be told to movie goers. As you can imagine, that was also my initial thought process when it came to the new slice of cinematic pie I am reviewing today known as Echoes of Violence. Unfortunately my enthusiasm, in the aftermath of having watched the final product, has been somewhat lowered, but by no means entirely extinguished. This is because while this is not a bad film by any means, thanks in part to decent work from its cast, it still draws way too much inspiration from other filmmakers in most other respects. As a result, what could have been a truly riveting slice of cinematic pie sadly is unable to ultimately stand on its own two feet and be its own thing.
The plot is as follows: Echoes of Violence starts its riveting narrative off by introducing us to a young man by the name of Alex as he is in the middle of his day to day occupation as a member of the community known as real estate agents and waiting for someone at a secluded property he is trying desperately to sell out in the middle of the desert. Things soon take a turn though when Alex stumbles upon a young woman about to be murdered by someone else and, through a combination of quick thinking to say nothing of his own trusty pistol, he is able to scare the woman’s attacker off before they are able to finish the job. We soon learn, after a series of mishaps, that this woman goes by the name of Marakya, she’s from Africa, and that the reason she was nearly bumped off is because her supposed immigration lawyer who was supposed to help her acquire her citizenship is also a ruthless and quite despicable sex trafficker and she has come into possession of vital information about his other business affairs. Thus finding herself needing to get back to LA in order to get some money she stashed away even though doing so means going up against her crooked attorney and his squad who will stop at nothing to hunt her down and finish the job, we see that our intrepid heroine along with a reluctant Alex in tow decides to set out on a quest for no more and no less than absolute vengeance….
Now I must let you know right off the bat that what Woods has managed to accomplish here, more than anything else, is he has managed to show to audiences (and this reviewer) what it would look like if a student of film wanted to pay homage to distinct film auteur Quentin Tarantino in their first trip up to the plate. This of course is perhaps most particularly noteworthy in the fact that this slice of cinematic pie, much like some of Tarantino’s earlier work like Pulp Fiction in 1994 and Reservoir Dogs in 1992 respectively, makes the narrative choice to utilize a chapter-like format to its narrative dealing with a young female who is fed up with the “male-dominated establishment” up to here and so is striving to obtain vengeance no matter how brutal it may be from those in the male gender who both exploited and subsequently did some pretty darn terrible things to her. It is also worth pointing out that as this slice of cinematic pie’s runtime moves forward, the movie does attempt to try and engage the audience a fair bit not only by going more in depth into a few of the characters operating more in the peripheral and in the process gift these characters with more dimension in order to not only ensure that they are credible as characters in this particular narrative, but at the same time also validate just what these characters bring to this distinct story as well. Sadly, despite that positive working in this film’s favor, this slice of cinematic pie is also stricken with the ailment that although it begins with the potential that this might actually be a comedic, riveting, and actually distinct entry in the crime thriller genre, it sadly fails to give viewers some surprising new wrinkles that I know you guys would be downright over the moon and back to see happen in a film of this ilk. Rather, Echoes of Violence is a slice of cinematic pie that chooses to be too straightforward, too simplistic, and telegraphs way too much in advance thus watering down the intrigue as the movie goes forward. Suffice it to say then that even though film helmer/ scribe Nicholas Woods is fairly talented at giving movie goers like you and me characters that are in equal measure riveting to follow as well as realistic, complete with a bit of comedy and bravado on top, he sadly is unable to take these characters in directions that are gutsy enough for the movie goer to really cheer them on throughout the film. Thus even though this slice of cinematic pie does aspire to stand out in the overpopulated world of the crime thriller, it isn’t quite as successful as it would like to be at being distinct to this genre. Instead this slice of cinematic pie seems more focused on trying its absolute best to be a tribute film of sorts to the ones made by Tarantino and Rodriguez rather than giving the audience that has perhaps a bit more substance and/or meaning attached to it.
As for the cast in this honestly I must admit that whilst they aren’t exactly the best at what they do they still do a decent job with the material they are given in bringing this particular story to life. Indeed our dynamic duo manage to operate with their respective roles in that they are not the most buddy buddy in the world which I felt did a great job at playing into the situation they have found themselves in perfectly. Indeed as the woman at the core of this film is Michaella Russell who does a pretty good job at mixing together terror, vulnerability, and just the right degree of assertiveness towards what she is setting out to do. As a result, we get a woman who is by and large not the proverbial damsel in distress archetype and instead is a person who 110% believes in what she is doing and that she is right to engage in the actions she is committing as well. As the main heroine’s reluctant ally in this by the name of Alex, we see Heston Horwin give a performance in this that, although a tad degree more low-key, still doesn’t do that bad of a job. Suffice it to say then that the main dynamic duo at the heart of this provide performances which I can promise you will help to keep your interest as much as they possibly can. As for the antagonists our duo is going up against, I do feel that they are a bit more run of the mill and typical for this genre, but I don’t mean that in a disparaging way. In fact, I would say that the work done by the antagonists is fine for this sort of film and they are foreboding just enough to make an impact as well. I also feel it should be said that one of the antagonists in this is portrayed by none other than Frank Oz. Yes, in case you are wondering it is the Frank Oz that came to your mind before any others (though if there are any noteworthy Frank Oz’s in the world of cinema please let me know) and surprisingly I actually enjoyed his performance in this. No it is not the most heavy in screen time in the world, but I felt Oz did a great job at channeling this character’s inner menace and ruthlessness in such a way that I would love to see a movie just about his character in this.
All in all points for effort, but alas no Hogwarts House Cup or cigar (let alone the vast majority of movie-related awards) is going to be awarded to this slice of cinematic pie anytime soon dear reader! Indeed make no mistake: whist this movie is by and large a respectable enough character analysis to say nothing of a decent enough entry in the thriller genre of movie magic, the 2021 slice of cinematic pie that is Echoes of Violence still unfortunately in many crucial respects is unable to completely and utterly hook those who choose to watch it whilst also dangling them along in a manner for something that doesn’t ever show up and if it did then it certainly wasn’t in a way that I can praise for being out of left field, novel, or even both for that matter. Don’t get me wrong though: I do feel that the film helmer/ scribe on this, one Nicholas Woods is in possession of a significant degree of skill and talent. Rather, I think he just needs to keep working on getting better at not just regaling us with a particular narrative, but also understand that the key to all the steady greats who are currently working or who have ever worked in the land of movie magic be they anybody from Martin Scorsese to Steven Spielberg with Richard Linklater and Quentin Tarantino tossed in for good measure is that these people take the time to conjure up movies that when the audience chooses to sit down and give them a watch then they are able to find themselves actually investing in both the world and the characters that these film helmers have constructed for them. Indeed the cast may do fairly decent work, especially Frank Oz in his small yet pivotal role, and the helmer/writer does warrant some praise for bravely making this his first film, but ultimately he still has a ways to go if he wants to give us something that I feel is worthy of the talent and skill he so clearly has. On a scale of 1-5 I give Echoes of Violence a solid 2.5 out of 5.
Normally this would be where I put the trailer, but for some weird reason the marketing team for this film have yet to put a trailer together yet so alas I’m sorry to say, but there is no trailer available at this time for you to view for this particular slice of cinematic pie movie goers! Thank you once again for all you do and I’ll see you guys at the movies! Ag