The Weapon Poster

The Weapon (2023) Review

The Weapon was directed by Tony Schiena (Darc, The Bleeding), written by Michael Caissie (Origin Unknown, Hunter’s Moon), and stars Schiena, Richard Grieco (Night of the Tommyknockers, Lord of the Streets), Jack Kesy (Death Wish, Claws), Mark Justice (Don’t Fuck in the Woods 2, The Wager), Sean Patrick Flanery (High Moon, Lasso), AnnaLynne McCord (Titanic 666, Fired Up!), Jeff Fahey (A Tale of Two Guns, Black Warrant), and Cuba Gooding Jr. (American Crime Story, As Good as it Gets). It follows a mysterious and seemingly unprecedented shooter as he takes down a Las Vegas mob to save his kidnapped girlfriend.

The Plot: Credit always goes where it’s due in my reviews, and Caissie was damn sure trying to shake up what boils down to one of the most generic and disconnected series of events one could come up with. His efforts were in vain because of a variety of things, but he tried.

Unstoppable nobleman Dallas (Schiena) has been stirring up trouble for the criminals of Las Vegas by torching their drug labs, freeing their trafficked women, and killing anyone who stands in the way of this process. The Weapon aspires to make the motive behind this action the core of its narrative, as the film starts with scenes of blatantly undercover marshal Antano (Flanery) being befuddled by the waking chaos. Problem is, the premise of the film and nonlinear structure gives that away, making the destination a guarantee rather than a mystery.

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Plenty of dialogue scenes show that Antano and Tanner know who Dallas is, as does ringleader Lars (Grieco) and enforcers Vinny (Kesy) and Tanner (Justice), which puts strain on the script’s desire to remain unreadable. It’s hard to tell what the overarching plot is, as there are too many scenes that devote time to nothing, too many attempts at keeping the audience out of the loop (envelopes addressed to characters that haven’t been given names are present), and too loose of a structure for what should be numbingly simple.

The bad guys kidnapped Dallas’ girl, Iris (McCord), the cops want to take him down for various reasons, and so do the baddies; the leading man gets help from wild cards like Blue (Gooding) and Voner (Fahey) and the day is saved. Why all of the posturing and try-hard nonsense is here, I can’t say.

The Characters: Approaching self-parody without the knowledge that it’s doing so, The Weapon has juiced up versions of the action genre’s stalwarts without the power to back them up, making for a laughable roster.

Dallas is the whitest of white knights. He saves every girl he can find, knocks the teeth out of every ne’er do well, never accepts payment, waxes poetic over what he truly deserves, and only grumbles all of his dialogue. There’s no depth or growth, no stirring backstory of why he’s on this mission (though it remains obvious throughout), and not a reason to like him. He seems like the kind of guy to try and one-up you in every conversation just to rub it in. Dallas may use the tools of the trade, but he’s no better than the tools with which he trades injuries.

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Not a single bad guy registers as anything more than a slapdash attempt at creating a syndicate. Lars is a hilariously dopey villain with nebulous connections. The Weapon vaguely hints at his drug/trafficking business being related to a biker gang but never clarified, and the guy looks like a rejected singer for an emo band, which isn’t helped by his overly slimy mannerisms. Vinny is seemingly under Lars’s umbrella, but he only mouths lines about wanting to beat up and kill people.

Both parties are enjoyably dumb and listless, but the insistence on stuffing in countless supporting characters like Blue, Dallas’s handler(?), and Doris (Bruce Dern in a random cameo), a guy who talks a couple of times, that die at random and without development get in the way of the unintentional fun.

The Action: While just about everything else that makes up The Weapon ends in complete failure, the fights and excursions at least begin competently, though entirely generic. It helps that Schiena is an accomplished martial artist, but there are plenty of better movies whose stars share the skill.

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Opening with a fight is a reliable way to grab one’s attention, and to be fair to the film, it has a decent debut. As Dallas scours a building full of trafficked women, he slips into their rooms and pops out to surprise the first goon, which he beats on with a motorcycle helmet that itself becomes his weapon to take down a couple others with some spin kicks and fisticuffs before getting on the road again. It’s solidly choreographed, and I can’t say I remember a motorcycle helmet being used as a bludgeon in a movie before.

After this sequence comes a jaw-dropping dip in quality, with Tanner sending what can best be described as “ninja cops” to nail Dallas, only for them to stand still as he beats the brakes off of them. Only one puts up a fight, allowing the man to stab the others with a broken bottle. Other assorted melee scenes bizarrely follow in the footsteps of the opener, to awkward results, like slapping a gunman with a bulletproof vest. Gunfights are choppily shot and incomprehensively telegraphed, such as one scene where Antano gets shot from somewhere by some guy for some reason.

Schiena has little in mind for an invigorating finale, as The Weapon just kind of ends with Voner offering Dallas the opportunity to take down bad guys – like he’s been doing for the whole movie (what?) – but this time with Antano. I’m no market analyst, but I’ve recognized the pattern of movies anticipating high returns and promising a sequel only to flop spectacularly. Chalking this movie up in that category is a safe bet.

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The Technics: Indie productions have it rough, and The Weapon assuredly falls under that banner. The average and above filmmakers can manage under the kind of stretching required to create a feature film, but sometimes there are those who crack. Schiena is one of them.

Having covered the mind-meltingly dense plot, I’ll write about the editing by Mark Atkins (Android Cop, Monster Island), who compounds the clarity issues by jarringly cutting from scenes that might be flashbacks or memories without indicating the time jump, and never working out the tone of the feature between transitions. Consistency is completely absent here, and that remains true for the music, also by Atkins, which is always over the top, but in different ways. Sometimes the score is overbearing in its attempts to be cool, and other times it’s trying way too hard to be emotional.

Some people just aren’t cut out to direct, and Schiena is one of them. However, The Weapon appears to be a vanity project, as the director could’ve stepped out of the limelight and allowed one of the more distinguished cast members (all of the names you know get one to three scenes) to lead the picture so it could be clearer. Not so, as Schiena gives himself all of the ostensibly cool lines (though a bodyguard gets the superbly-written line “L-O-L” all to himself), “high octane” action, and beautiful girls. Because of this, there are sloppy moments where the cameraman is visible, single frames left over from the editing process, and mistimed sound effects riddling the film. It’s a mess.

Few things can be as enjoyable as a bad movie, and The Weapon is a complete cluster aside from the few talented people involved (Flanery, Kesy, Fahey, and Gooding) and a few competent fights. If you can survive weaponized incompetence, check it out.

Lionsgate has released The Weapon to VOD and Digital platforms. It comes to DVD on March 28th. If you want something similar, but hopefully better, you can check with FilmTagger for ideas.

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