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The Painter (2024) Review

Kicking off our reviews for 2024 is The Painter, another tale of a former covert operative forced to pick up his weapons and get back in the game. Can director Kimani Ray Smith (Evil Feed, Horror Noire) and writer Brian Buccellato (Dangerous Game: The Legacy Murders, The Firing Squad) find a way to give the year a fresh start with the usual assortment of high stakes espionage mixed with personal and professional betrayals?

Peter (Charlie Weber, Dead Above Ground, How to Get Away with Murder) was one of the CIA’s top agents until he was sent to kill the same person his wife Elena’s (Rryla McIntosh, American Girl: Corinne Tan, The Secret Lives of College Freshmen) team was sent to bring back alive. She lost the child she was carrying, and their marriage fell apart soon after.

It also destroyed his trust in the agency and in his adoptive father Henry Byrne (Jon Voight, Mercy, Anaconda). He adopted Peter after his parents, who were also agents, were killed in a terrorist bombing that left Peter with hearing that is hypersensitive to the point of being a superpower. Byrne saw the possibilities and raised him to become an assassin.

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Now he goes by the name Mark, lives in a secluded cabin and makes a living as a painter. But his past is about to catch up with him in the form of a young woman named Sophia (Madison Bailey, Outer Banks, Discarded Things) who claims to be his daughter and says her mother told her to find him if something happened to her. It’s not long before he has more visitors, a heavily armed CIA wet team.

The Painter actually gets off to a decent start with a pair of solid action scenes in the first half hour, which is more than several mid-budget thrillers I’ve sat through have in their entire run time. It also does a fairly painless job of providing some backstory and giving the viewer a few clues as to what’s going on.

Those few clues tell us that Agent Piasecki (Marie Avgeropoulos, Jiu Jitsu, King of Killers) and her assistant Agent Kim (Luisa d’Oliveira, The 100, Into the Grizzly Maze) believe Peter has gone rogue. Elena is somehow involved, and somebody has sent Ghost (Luisa d’Oliveira, Devil in Ohio, Cold Pursuit) to do what the wet team failed to.

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Of course, the question is, who is out to frame Peter and who, if anyone, can he trust. And The Painter doesn’t do as good a job of keeping that hidden as it does at staging its action sequences. Smith and Buccellato try to throw a few twists at the viewer, but the pieces are too easy to put together. That includes the sequel friendly ending that seems to be mandatory for films like this now.

Peter’s hearing never amounts to much more than a gimmick, something that’s used when convenient to let him know what he otherwise wouldn’t and then forgotten until it’s needed again. Even less is done with Ghost and his enhanced vision, leaving him just another unstable killing machine. So unstable, in fact, that I had a hard time imagining any organization trusting him not to go rogue and putting him in the field. His fight with Peter is the film’s highlight, but his character could have been handled a lot better.

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Cinematographer Ryan Petey (Bullet Proof, The Inheritance) does a good job of bringing out the cold beauty of British Columbia, which is standing in for Colorado, as well as get the most out of the action scenes that ultimately carry The Painter over the finish line. (Bullet Proof, The Inheritance) does a good job of bringing out the cold beauty of British Columbia, which is standing in for Colorado, as well as get the most out of the action scenes that ultimately carry The Painter over the finish line.

So, to answer the question I posed at the start, no, they can’t do much new with the material. But given the trend for thrillers to end up as dull talk fests that are devoid of action, it’s easy to forgive The Painter its narrative lapses and enjoy the mayhem missing from the likes of Ruthless and Kane. Taken for what it is, The Painter is a good way to kill ninety minutes, just try not to think of what it could have been.

Paramount will release The Painter in select theatres on January 5th and for purchase as a digital download on the 9th. You can check Paramount’s Facebook page for announcements of Blu-ray and streaming availability.

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