The Handler opens with a montage of clips of a man and a girl sparring in their yard, two men running on a beach and a large man in a camo jacket stashing guns throughout a house. Then it cuts to an injured man with a large bag running to the house the guns were being stashed in. Confused? Don’t worry, writer/director Michael Matteo Rossi (Chase, Shadows) will explain it all after a flurry of fists, bullets and CGI blood.
The running man is Ryker Dune (Chris Levine, No Way Out, 2 Die For). An ex-Marine who found it hard supporting his wife Jane (Rachel Alig, The Cleaning Lady, Verotika) and daughter Linn (Cathy Baron, Psycho Yoga Instructor, The Legend of Hell’s Gate: An American Conspiracy) in the civilian world. Needing fast cash he goes to work for Vinnie Fiore (Michael Pashan, The Legend of Resurrection Mary, No Loose Ends). With a name like that I really don’t have to tell you he’s in the mob, do I?
But the deeper he gets sucked into Vinnie’s world, the less Jane likes it. She wants him out, but Vinnie isn’t about to let him walk away and threatens his family. That’s when things get ugly.
The Handler is told in flashbacks, and even a flashback within a flashback, while Ryker is holed up in a safe house. The story of how he got to this point is related in between the film’s action scenes as Vinnie sends his goons to deal with him. And, for an obviously very low-budget film, there are plenty of fights.
This leads to my first issue with The Handler. Even after he knows Vinnie knows where he is, Ryker doesn’t bother to go inside and lock the doors. What’s the point of a safe house if you don’t practice basic security? He’s sleeping on the patio at one point when one of them turns up. If he’d had the brains to shoot him in his sleep the film would have been over in the first act. For those that follow such things, that particular goon is played by Tyrone Magnus who apparently is somebody famous on YouTube.
At one point Vinnie sends Ryker a text saying he’s going to send his people after him until he’s too worn down to fight, then kill him himself. That may explain why he sends so many unarmed women in to try to beat him up. Not that the big dudes with big guns do much better, it just seems like an odd move. As odd as nobody noticing the constant gunfire or the smell of burning flesh when he douses a couple of corpses with charcoal lighter and sets them on fire.
The Handler was a film that left me with very mixed feelings. On the one hand, it is filled with action, there’s a shootout or fistfight every few minutes. And for a film of modest means, some of it is impressively well-staged. Especially a long fight between Levine and Matt Erdems (Checkmate) who looks like a skinny version of JCVD. Apart from the CGI blood and a couple of moments where camera trickery was involved its action credentials are solid.
On the other hand, though, The Handler has almost no plot and what little there is lacks any kind of logic. Everyone acts incredibly stupid, even by action movie standards. The rather disappointing end is something that could, and realistically would have, happened in the first few minutes of the film. After the decently plotted Chase, this was a distinct letdown.
Still, if you don’t really care about the plot and just want a quick, fast-paced dose of action, The Handler might just your needs. The Handler debuts on DVD, Digital and On Demand on December 7th from Uncork’d Entertainment. You can check their Facebook page for more details.