Wire Room was directed by Matt Eskandari (Survive the Night, Trauma Center), written by Brandon Stiefer and stars Kevin Dillon (A Day to Die, Hot Seat), Oliver Trevena (While We Sleep, Grand Isle), Shelby Cobb (The Tenant, Encore), and Bruce Willis (Death Wish, Fortress: Sniper’s Eye). It’s about a federal agent who must protect his surveillance target from a hit squad after they unexpectedly raid his facility.
The Plot: First outings are difficult things, especially when the concept has been in constant usage for decades. Stiefer’s storyline suffers the consequences of ubiquity, as it retreads the same ground used since the early 90s; while he tries to compound other grab bag elements to spice it up, it’s too stiffly locked into traditional tropes.
Fridays are supposed to be slow around the wire room, which means an easy first shift on duty for Justin (Dillon), who’s late to his new site. Lateness doesn’t sit well with the agents currently on duty, Shane (Willis) and Nour (Cobb), who quickly saddle the newcomer with housekeeping duties and watching over cartel middleman Eddie (Trevena), a piece in the puzzle of taking down said cartel, so as to record anything suspicious before they clock out for the day. Both established agents are quick with the exposition, which bared slowing down on to a degree, just to properly establish the parties in place.
During a brief moment where Justin gets up to go to the bathroom – a banned activity when left alone – a few unmarked cars full of armed men roll up, breach the house, and kill some of Eddie’s girls. It’s supposed to be a mystery as to who’s responsible for these actions, but thanks to some obvious signposting, the conclusion should be forgone to most viewers. Since Justin can’t leave the wire room, he calls on Shane to go there and keep Eddie alive without interfering directly in the surveillance operation; but that’s before things get worse.
Old premises don’t guarantee poor results, and while Stiefer’s story isn’t all that inventive in its setups or destination, it’s at least largely competent in a broader narrative stance.
The Characters: While Wire Room is acceptably plotted, the characters aren’t much more than recycled cliches that find themselves at home in these kinds of thrillers, with the exception of the lead, who gets some accelerated development in a dire circumstance.
Justin, despite being a rookie in the wire room, has been doing the secretive stuff for years; starting with the secret service almost two decades ago, and has moved up(?) to Homeland Security, and he took the ego boost that must come with protecting a president with him. He’s not overly cocky, but he’s a little too sure of himself on a job he has near zero experience doing. Thankfully, it doesn’t take long for him to be humbled once he’s put between a rock and a hard place. Crucially, the agent is still somewhat relatable, trying to make friends with his co-workers and able to think quickly, even if his solutions are only temporary.
Eddie is a larger-than-life personality without the personality. The huge house he lives in, the multiple girlfriends, the explosive temper, and the tracksuit as homely attire are all derivative placeholders that don’t change in any way throughout the runtime. Although there is one point of address Wire Room makes out of his reduction from a higher place in the cartel to a mere middleman, it doesn’t build on him from there, and neither does Trevena, whose overacting is tough to sit through.
Considering that Shane and Nour are barely in Wire Room beyond the first and last 10 minutes, their lack of characterization is less of a bother. Making the former a weeks out from retirement burnout and the latter a snarky yet devoted worker is fine for a side character, but less so for the second lead. Thankfully the star carries the weight.
The Thrills: Director Eskandari has more than proven himself to be capable of pulling tension out of territory so familiar that it may as well be undoable. And again, he shows his mettle, even if at first the feature threatens to collapse under him.
Surveillance is often times a more exciting concept when the protagonist is on the receiving end and not the partaker. Much of the first act in Wire Room shows that fact, but not necessarily for the better since it offers a lengthy boredom montage that serves well to illustrate Justin’s stasis but goes on for a little too long after the point has been made. Interest is regained after this though, as the initial raid is a bit more “scorched-Earth” with the house’s occupants than expected.
Utilizing a distant watcher as an expansion on another character’s field of view is another popular trope that’s largely been put to pasture since the zeitgeist has pretty much come to accept unseen listeners as an unalterable fact of life, lawful or unlawful. The director doesn’t do anything to resuscitate the idea when focused on Eddie but having a mounting force coming at Justin while he’s still trying to guide the criminal to safety, making a twofold display of cautious offence, helps breathe a pulse back into the feat.
The final confrontation is compelling since Eddie is working on eliminating the threat that remains in his house while trying to figure out a way to slip through Justin’s fingers while there’s nothing the agent can do to stop it. Stiefer brings all of the characters to a conclusion that doesn’t reshape some of the choices he makes in regard to leaving certain doors open, but it’s engaging nonetheless; a phrase that summarizes the movie well.
The Technics: Given that this is another Randall Emmett/George Furla film, there isn’t that much to say about the mechanical side of Wire Room that hasn’t been said surrounding most of their other productions.
Limited locations can sometimes be a boon to thrillers, keeping them visually claustrophobic as well as literally so. The result in this movie is rather fifty-fifty, as some scenes embrace this oppressive quality given by low square footage while others don’t. Also a mixed bag is the sound design, which uses a lot of different sound effects instead of the generic royalty-free ones that are normally heard in other low-budget movies, only to throw a few stock ones in for seemingly little reason.
Effects are equally limited in the producer duo’s output, and Wire Room is no different. Since a decent chunk of the funds probably went to renting the house where Eddie is for the length of the movie, there’s a dearth of practical blood for most of the kills, which would’ve greatly benefitted from some squibs to make the original(?) sound effects feel that much newer. These are more minor complaints than the inconsistent usage of space but do compile to give off a “been there, done that” look and feel to the movie.
Willis’s final film (that he worked on anyway) isn’t a huge hit, but it’s no bomb either. It’ll be familiar to those who’ve seen techno-thrillers and small-scale actioners, but thanks to Dillon and Eskandari, it’s acceptable weekend entertainment.
Lionsgate has released Wire Room to VOD and Digital platforms. It will be available on DVD and Blu-ray on October 11th. You can also check out FilmTagger for suggestions of similar films that might get you wired.