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Ruthless (2023) Review

With ten movies and five episodes of TV shows to his credit for 2023, Dermot Mulroney seems to be vying to fill the gap left by the retirement of Bruce Willis. Ruthless proves he’s already mastered sleepwalking through a film every bit as well as he could. Sadly, he won’t be the only one sleeping as this film manages to make human trafficking deadly, deadly dull, that is.

Harry (Dermot Mulroney, The Inhabitant, Young Guns) just wanted to go watch a movie. But he ends up telling off some kid who isn’t listening when his date says no. That, of course, leads to the kid pulling a knife on him in the parking lot. That’s not a good idea because Harry is a man with a certain set of skills, and he uses his high school wrestling coach abilities to break their arm.

But that’s just the start of his problems. The call he thought was from his daughter wasn’t from her, it was from the police, who recovered it at a crime scene. She’s been attacked and is in the hospital. Of course, he gets there just in time to see her die.

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In what may be Ruthless’s only original moment, her assailant is caught and sent away for life, leaving Harry nothing to do but brood and drink for a few years. Then he notices how often Catia (Melissa Diaz, Blowback, Failure!) comes in badly bruised. She’s being abused by her stepfather Tom (Mauricio Mendoza, Seized, Shrapnel) and her mother Jane (Tonantzin Esparza, The Rise and Fall of the Brown Buffalo, Due Justice) is too scared to do anything.

Harry isn’t scared though, he bursts in and when Tom tells him to fuck off, you got it, Harry breaks his arm. That gets him arrested and Catia sold to Sergio (Rafael Cabrera, Cheaper By the Dozen, Already Lucky). Now Harry is going to have to infiltrate the auction at a Vegas hotel run by Dale Remington (Jeff Fahey, Assailant, The Long Night) if he’s going to save her and the other girls.

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Director Art Camacho (13 Dead Men, Sci-Fighter) Has been directing since 1995 and working as a stuntman even longer, so it’s a bit of a surprise that he needed three co-writers, James Dean Simington (The Camacho Experiment, Assassin X), Javier Reyna (Black Warrant, Regionrat), and Koji Steven Sakai (The Commando, #1 Serial Killer) to come up with something so generic it should have been called The Sound of Taken’s Death Wish.

Apart from being generic, the writing is also bad. The characters are so poorly constructed, it’s hard to like any of them. Rather than a man of action and few words, Harry comes off as a sullen thug whose thinking with his fists manages to make a bad situation worse. He’s so creepy that it’s no wonder Joan questions whether he’s up to something inappropriate with her daughter. For her part, Catia knows Tom’s temper but keeps provoking him anyway. She’s supposed to be strong and defiant, but the script makes her look like a mouthy idiot, even being a bitch to Harry when he tries to help.

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Now, if Ruthless dished up plenty of action, the viewer might be distracted from these flaws. But, like so many of these films, the action scenes are few and far between until the last few minutes. And they’re not particularly impressive, two of them are Harry beating up the out of shape Tom. In fact, he very rarely fights anyone who is actually a match for him, which makes the action scenes we do get less than exciting.

If you simply want to see a few traffickers get beat up, then Ruthless might keep you entertained. But if you’re looking for any suspense or halfway decent action scenes, Ruthless is pretty much useless.

Ruthless is available on Digital and VOD Platforms via Saban Films.

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