In the opening minutes of Out of Death Shannon Mathers (Jaime King, Black Summer, My Bloody Valentine) is caught in a thunderstorm whose CGI raindrops don’t make the leaves move. But that’s nothing compared to what happens next. She stumbles across a drug deal turned murder involving Billie (Lala Kent, Spree, Hard Kill) a corrupt cop and the only coke and heroin dealer in history not to carry a weapon (Oliver Trevena, The Reckoning, While We Sleep).
Meanwhile, Pam (Kelly Greyson, Broken Memories) is visiting her uncle, Jack (Bruce Willis, Cosmic Sin, Midnight in the Switchgrass) a retired cop who moved out to the country after the death of his wife. He’s afraid he’ll be bored away from the city. But when he stumbles across the cops about to execute Shannon, things will be anything but boring. Unless you’re in the audience.
Out of Death is the first feature for both writer Bill Lawrence and director Mike Burns whose previous credits are as music supervisor on several of Willis’ recent films including Hard Kill and Survive the Night. I’ll give him credit for getting the film done on a nine-day schedule with Willis only on the set for one of them.
Unfortunately, the results are about as bland as it gets. Shannon needs to find the camera she dropped to prove her story. The Sheriff (Michael Sirow, Midnight Man, Fortress: Sniper’s Eye) needs it all covered up to protect his political ambitions. Billie and Jack’s brother, Deputy Tom (Tyler Jon Olson, Boss Level, Force of Nature) are incompetent so he has to get involved personally. And you don’t think they introduced a character like Jack’s niece for nothing, do you?
With such a small cast you know Out of Death isn’t going to have much in the way of action. And there isn’t. There is lots of wandering around in the woods, lots of talk and the bad guys screaming “Freeze!” and firing into the air rather than actually shooting the person they’re chasing.
The script for Out of Death also makes constant use of coincidence. We keep seeing aerial shots of vast forests, but characters repeatedly stumble across each other in the woods. Jack is there because of his dead wife, Shannon, her dead father giving them common ground to bond over. And Pam not only works for the Sheriff, but she must also be the only honest member of the town’s police force. You can get away with some of this if the film moves fast enough to keep you from thinking about it, this just plods along.
With Willis barely in the film and seemingly barely awake when he is, it’s up to King and Sirow to carry the film. Sirow does a good job as the manipulative and ruthless Sheriff and gives Out of Death a solid villain. Unfortunately, Jack isn’t on screen enough to make an identifiable hero and Shannon isn’t given much to do but scream and cry between run-ins with the crooked cops. King does the best she can with the part, but there’s damn little for her to work with.
Out of Death starts with scenes from the middle of the film before going back to the start. That, as much as I dislike it, is pretty standard these days. However, we get to the final confrontation and then the film flashes back to reveal some vital information as to how we got there. It not only feels like a cheat, but it’s also counterproductive. There would have been more suspense in a race against time situation than in what the film gives us, which feels very much like a deus ex machina finish.
And as a final note, despite being directed by a music supervisor who also wrote the film’s score, Out of Death’s imitation Southern backwoods score, (it’s set in Georgia), is particularly annoying. As is the crappy attempt at a blues song at the end. “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Warrant would have been a better choice. For that matter, the video for it is a more involving story of corrupt Southern lawmen than Out of Death.