Crossfire (2023) Review
Just a few days after we saw him in Adrenaline Louis Mandylor (Battle for Saipan, The Doorman) is back in Crossfire, another film about an FBI agent dealing with the revenge killing of a family member. This time he plays F.B.I. Agent Mark Patson. Patson is in the news for saving several women from human traffickers.
The last time he was in the news was for taking down the Gorilla Gang. That resulted in the death of his wife in a revenge killing, something his daughter Alisha (Samm Wiechec, Exit Zero, Atlantic Rim: Resurrection) has never forgiven him for. Now however she’s coming home over school holidays and he’s determined to do whatever it takes to reconnect with her, starting with resigning from the Agency.
What he doesn’t know is that somebody else is back as well. The gang member (Kevin Gage, Hustle Down, Heat) who killed Patson’s wife has returned, and this time he’s targeting Alisha.
Writer/director Yadhu Krishnan (Choice, The Great Escape) lays the domestic drama on hard and extremely cliched in Crossfire’s opening act. Alisha is a stereotypically troubled young woman, all black fingernail polish and snarls, rebuffing every attempt her father makes to be pleasant and interact with her. For his part, Mandylor is stuck playing the brooding hero, constantly flashing back to how things were and obsessed with his inability to reach his daughter.
In the middle of this is Miriam (Lori Pelenise Tuisano, Fun Size, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw), Mark’s friend who takes it upon herself to bring the two to a reconciliation. She’s yet another cliche, a variation on the trope Spike Lee referred to as the “Magical Negro”, a minority character whose main, or even sole purpose is to get a film’s white protagonists to see the error of their ways. It was tired in 2001 when he first spoke about it, Crossfire’s use of it in 2023 is embarrassing.
From an action standpoint, Crossfire is a very mixed bag. While there are some decent fight scenes choreographed by Victor Chen (Third Law, Born a Champion). Jerky camerawork spoils the effect of some of them, however. There are also moments like a ridiculously low-speed car crash that made me roll my eyes. Effects are limited but there is a fairly well-executed throat cutting.
If Gage had played a particularly intimidating or interesting villain Crossfire might have been salvageable. But he’s as thin and cliched as the protagonists. He doesn’t have a name, the credits refer to him as “Stranger”, let alone any backstory. He’s not even the focus of the film’s best action scenes, they go to a random purse thief and some would-be rapists in a club.
A bland protagonist versus an anonymous and mostly absent antagonist does not make for a compelling film, and Crossfire is anything but compelling. It mostly plods along, spending much more time on scenes like Miriam taking Alisha around town to meet all the folk her father has helped than it does on anything action related. And the revenge plot that’s supposed to be at the center of the film is barely an afterthought.
And the revenge plot that’s supposed to be at the center of Crossfire is barely an afterthought with Gage’s character barely factoring into the film until the last few minutes when it reaches its patheticly predictable climax. While it has more action and isn’t quite as bad as Adrenaline it’s pretty close. And two films this bad in the same year is an indication Louis Mandylor needs to think about changing agents while he still has a career.