Gasoline Alley, (no relation to the classic comic strip), is the fifth collaboration between director Edward Drake and star Bruce Willis. Normally it’s a good thing when a director and performer can work together as a team. But when that teaming produces Breach, Cosmic Sin, Apex and American Siege one has to question why the studio keeps teaming them up.
Ex-con Jimmy Jayne (Devon Sawa, Black Friday, Escape Plan: The Extractors) is in a bit of trouble. He lost a lighter with the name of his tattoo parlour, Gasoline Alley, on it. Somebody did find it, but it was Detective Freeman (Bruce Willis) and his partner Detective Vargas (Luke Wilson, Zombieland: Double Tap, Vacancy). And they found it in the presence of several dead hookers, one of whom he was seen with the night she died. All of which makes him the leading suspect in their deaths.
It doesn’t take long for Gasoline Alley to go off the rails as Jimmy sits down and lets the two cops question him without his lawyer present. That’s something everyone, especially someone whose been through the system before, knows is a bad idea. Almost as bad as deciding to play detective and solve the case yourself.
For once one of these movies gets the billing somewhat right. Sawa’s name is first on the poster and it is his film. Granted Wilson should get second billing, but at least they’re not trying to pass Willis off as the star. The problem is, while he at least looks like he’s putting some effort into it, Sawa really doesn’t have much to do. The script lets him prove how tough he is by spitting out lines like “Don’t talk to me in that tone of voice” and “You need a warrant for that”. That and constantly smoking. If he had half as many fights as he does cigarettes Gasoline Alley would have been a much better film.
Instead, Gasoline Alley gives us a lot of talk punctuated by the occasional fight or half-assed car chase. Almost nothing happens in the first half of the film, and I kept hoping they were saving the stunt budget for an all-out last act. No such luck, we get even more talk as Jimmy wanders around Hollywood “investigating” the killings which mostly means talking to people who should know better than to tell him anything. Then we can all act shocked when something bad happens to them.
The plot goes off into a conspiracy involving Hollywood elites, wannabe actresses being trafficked as hookers and murder. All of which are being run out of the basement of a restaurant. Where have I heard that detail before? Unfortunately, rather than going the route of The Pizzagate Massacre, Drake and co-writer Tom Sierchio (The Girl Who Invented Kissing, Untamed Heart) seem determined to make everything as bland and dull as possible. It’s only in the last few minutes that Gasoline Alley works up any kind of energy and we get a halfway decent fight and shootout. And even that’s undercut by a twist you’ll have seen coming by the end of the first act.
Gasoline Alley is another tedious exercise in paint-by-numbers filmmaking. I can’t understand how they’re making any money off of them by this point. Surely by now, action film fans know what they’re likely to get from anything with Bruce Willis in it. And seeing Edward Drake’s name should be a warning to expect the worst. I watch them because I have to, I can’t imagine why anyone would choose to.
Saban Films will release Gasoline Alley in theatres and to VOD on February 25th. The date for DVD and Blu-ray availability hasn’t been announced.