For the record, there's an awful lot of THE KANE FILES that audiences have already seen before. Indeed, the central thread of the story is practically lifted from the script of the Denzel Washington thriller, JOHN Q, and the "former hitman trying to live an honest life" has been done to countless variations, even with whole seasons of television series. So the real question here is: what's NEW to the story?
The answer is, sadly, very little.
Scott Kane (played by Drew Fuller) is the former contract killer who's trying to make ends meet with his comely young wife, Anna (the increasingly lovely Whitney Able). When their son, Owen, develops a previously undiagnosed heart ailment, Kane goes where he knows he can make the money he needs - to the local mob kingpin Daniel Morgan (William Atherton). Morgan promises Kane over a quarter million dollars in exchange for a single hit ... that's only if the dirty cop Jace Olsen (Ethan Embry) doesn't get to the money first.
Too much of the plot revolves around circumstantial plotting - Kane happened to be in the right place at the right time in order to get at the dirty cop's family; Kane spends too much of his time committed to getting back at others and too little time actually trying to get to the money promised him, even if it really existed; FBI agent Thompson (the always appreciated William Devane) has too little substance and no legitimate backstory here but always shows up in the nick of time - and, thus, the picture never really developed any momentum for me. The action sequences play out nicely, if not a bit predictably. There's a clever plot device that frames the motion picture, tweaking the audience to question who really is the bad guy and who really is the good guy; yet, in the end, it all turns out pretty much the way you guessed it if you're watching close.
Atherton is so horribly miscast here - he spouts his anger with way too much control for any of it to be believable - and so is Embry; his fresh-face (he was the goofy kid-in-the-band from Tom Hanks' THAT THING YOU DO!) betrays any sense of genuine menace his character is meant to summon, much less achieve. Even when his camera-friendly face is beaten, bruised, and blood-covered it's hard to take any of it seriously. Part of that wholesome quality is built into the script; it's done with measured cleverness, but, in the end, I wasn't convinced. That could be because some dunderhead had the bright idea to cover Embry's body with so many tattoos in the early scenes that I just didn't buy the "I'm the good guy" image right out of the gate.
To his credit, Fuller does a good job, as does Able. He brings a respectable toughness - an affable grace - to the role, as Ms. Able blends equal parts charm and desperation. The two of them - along with Devane - deserved a better script; they're the trinity upon which so much of the plot revolves. To their benefit, the film concludes with a bit of a hanging thread - there's a chance, albeit slim, that we could see all of these characters again - and one can only hope that the next go-round (if it's to be) gets more substance and more teeth to the action.
There's some virtue on display - the former hitman is trying to live a clean life - and there's a fair amount of running and gunplay; however, so much of it is bracketed in a world that makes little sense. How could Kane so easily have broken into a house under surveillance by the police? Why were the police watching Kane's target in the first place? If it was in an attempt to corner the local `bookie' and his heavies, then why was it so poorly conceived and run? Had they sent the target in with a wire in the earlier scene, they'd already have all the evidence they needed. To the writer's benefit, it's all told at a breakneck speed so that the audience doesn't have the time to ask questions ... but I guess it's just my job. I could go on, but I think you get the gist of it: a script with too many holes only encourages an audience to fill `em on their own, and that's NEVER a good idea. Writer/director Benjamin Gourley has no one to blame but himself for the mess.
The picture comes from the Highland Film Group and Redline Entertainment, with contributing partners of Revel Entertainment and Wolf Gourley Productions. It looks pretty solid, but I thought the sound mix was as close to horrible as it could get for the DVD. I'm not sure how well these folks were miked for the production, but I hope somebody lost their job over it. The disc comes from Inception Media Group with no special features, not a huge surprise as that's usually the case with smaller releases like this.
NOT REALLY RECOMMENDED. There's absolutely wrong or ignoble about many direct-to-DVD ventures; it's just that, when they essentially bring nothing new to the game, it's hard to embrace it as anything more than a feature passed off to make a buck. Minimally, KANE tweaks the former-hitman-now-turned-good-guy formula with some clever plot devices, but the rest of it is mired in so much mediocrity it's hard to get excited about it.
In the interests of fairness, I'm pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Inception Media Group, LLC provided me with a DVD screener of THE KANE FILES for the expressed purposes of completing this review.