Inception Media Group // 2010 // 91 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // May 15th, 2012
You can't stop a man who will stop at nothing.
There are few genres more venerable in modern film than the "one last job" flick. Audiences love to see a criminal (or sometimes a cop) being forced to do one last task before retirement. Even better is the situation when a criminal is pulled out of retirement to do something he or she is good at. When there's a personal motive for accomplishing the task, then you're reached the ultimate expression of the genre. Making the personal motivation a dying child creates a sympathetic criminal who will stop at nothing to save his son. The Kane Files banks on the fact that a sick kid and a criminal on one last job will pull viewers in. Though it won't win any major awards, the film's basic premise is handled well enough to produce a competent little action film.
Scott Kane (Drew Fuller, Charmed) used to be a hit man, but since he settled down with a wife and a young son he doesn't kill people any more. The only problem is that his son needs an expensive treatment to live. Kane turns to a hit to supply the necessary dough, but he's double-crossed and ends up with a dirty cop (Ethan Embry, Can't Hardly Wait) and the FBI on his tail.
I'll say one thing for The Kane Files -- it tries to give the audience lots of bang for the buck. It could have been a simple "one last job" flick, with Scott Kane going off to shoot some random guy to get the money to save his son. Alternatively, it could have been a revenge-fueled flick about a guy who got double-crossed on a deal. It even could have been a kidnapping movie, where a retired killer is forced to kill again because his family is kidnapped. Instead, The Kane Files is all three in one.
For viewers, that means a fast-paced action narrative that doesn't stop once it gets going. After a couple of early scenes set up the main action, the film plunges headlong into Kane's hit, his double-cross, and his eventual revenge. There's very little fat on this film. In an era where bloated action flicks can go on for 100 or more minutes, a tight 90-minute thriller is something to appreciate.
As for the non-plot elements, they're all solidly handled. The acting is fine from a group of experienced, though not top-tier, actors. Ethan Embry and Drew Fuller have extensive experience, especially in television, and it's always nice to see veterans like William Devane taking solid roles.
The Kane Files is also dependable on DVD. The 1.78:1 transfer looks about as good as a low-budget action flick can be expected to. Detail is fine, colors are well-saturated, and black levels stay deep and consistent. The overall effect is a bit too digital for my tastes, but that's likely a problem with the source and not this transfer. The 5.1 surround track is fine, with clear dialogue in the center and some surround use during action sequences. The low end rears its head now and again as well.
The Kane Files, however, won't convert any new fans to action films, and there isn't a lot new here. Astute viewers will notice parallels to other films, especially the recent John Q, where Denzel Washington is similarly placed to do something desperate to save his kid. The action is similarly uninventive, with no budget to take the scenes to somewhere new or stage anything too outlandish. The plot has similarly been done to death. Though the "one last job" premise is a fine one, it's not used to particularly great effect here.
Also, the whole film can feel a bit pedestrian or by the numbers. That's not a horrible thing, but with so many new and old action flicks at viewers' fingertips the film really needs something to set it apart. Speaking of pedestrian, there are a couple of "romantic" scenes in the film that feel especially unnecessary and don't add much; there's little skin, and they don't do much to further character development either.
Finally, the utter lack of extras here is disappointing. A few cast interviews, some behind-the-scenes footage, anything besides the trailer would have been welcome.
The Kane Files ably demonstrates that direct-to-video action cinema still has some life left in it. Though the film will likely not appeal to anyone outside diehard action film fans, for those viewers, the film is certainly worth a rental.
File this flick under "Not Guilty."
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Inception Media Group
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated R