The Island (2023) Review
The Island wastes no time in establishing just how evil its villain, Manuel (Edoardo Costa, General Commander, Non-Stop) is. As he’s talking to Nora (Cami Storm, They Live in the Grey, Blood Harvest), a singer auditioning at one of his properties, the waiter spills her drink on her. His response isn’t to fire the man but to stab him in the neck and tell the shocked woman, “Go get cleaned up, you work for me now.”
In Los Angeles Mark (Michael Jai White, Triple Threat, Black Friday) and his partner Phil (Jackson Rathbone, Condor’s Nest, WarHunt) are working undercover setting up a drug bust. This being an action film it naturally goes bad, but that’s not the worst thing Mark is going to have to deal with today. He gets a call telling him his brother has been murdered on the island where they grew up.
Writers Michael Caissie (The Weapon, Origin Unknown) and Philippe Martinez (Wake of Death, York Witches Society) quickly set up a very familiar premise and reinforce it with all the familiar plot points you would expect from a film like this.
Mark returns home, attends the funeral and has his mother (Esther Brooks, Christmas in Paradise, One Year Off) tell him not to look for revenge. His old friend Nate (Wayne Gordon, Fear the Invisible Man, 400 Bullets) is the chief of police but says his small force can’t keep up with the rising crime rate. He also sees his ex-wife Akilah (Gillian White, Never Back Down: No Surrender, Welcome to Sudden Death), who we know he still has feelings for as he hasn’t covered up the tattoo of her name.
I’m sure by now you’ve also guessed that the waiter we saw killed in the opening scene was Mark’s brother and that Manuel is responsible for not just his death but all of the crime and gang activity as well.
With a script this generic, the writers couldn’t even be bothered giving the island a name having the locals refer to it as “the island” as if its name was cursed, the film needed a solid action director to give it some identity. It got Shaun Paul Piccinino whose credits as a director run to films like A California Christmas: City Lights and Wheels of Fortune.
That turned out to be somewhat of a mixed blessing though, as what keeps The Island from being a total loss is what Piccinino learned working as a stuntman. And that seems to have been a lot. While much of the rest of the film is a mess, the action scenes themselves are solid. The camera frequently is pulled back so we can see the fighters and the takes are held long enough, and steady enough, that the viewer can enjoy the brawling.
Despite his age, Michael Jai White still looks convincing kicking ass, and can deliver when called on. He’s given decent support from his wife Gillian as his martial arts instructor ex, and from Rathbone, for the little time he’s on screen. The only one of the villains who gets any development is Manuel, and Costa does his best to make him loathsome. Amber Townsend (Wire Room, Assimilate) however is wasted as his psycho girlfriend Carla, who gets to hurl threats and slaps around but doesn’t get to do much more.
It’s just too bad it’s all wasted on such a predictable production. Fight against a bar full of goons? Check. Bigtime muscle called in? Check. Family member kidnapped and friend killed? Check and add another checkmark to the checklist. If you want some good action scenes and don’t care about the plot, The Island should satisfy you. Everyone else would probably be better off checking out the 1980 Michael Caine modern day pirate film instead.
The Island is currently available on Digital Platforms via Saban Films.