Is the universe collapsing into itself? So you’re telling me that A-list Spanish actor Antonio Banderas is headlining an action film that includes supporting roles from rapper 2 Chainz and popular model/influencer Alexis Ren? In director Richard Hughes’ middling action offering, The Enforcer, written by W. Peter Iliff, that’s what we get. It features a bizarre turn from a well-seasoned actor in a story that struggles to set itself apart from the crowded pack.
In Miami, Stray (Mojean Aria) is a professional street fighter who regularly puts his skills as a pugilist to the test to make ends meet. His hyper-masculine badassery catches the eye of mafia enforcer Cuda (Banderas) and his comically evil boss Estelle (Kate Bosworth). In their quest for a brute that can help add a more, uh, convincing touch to their illicit business deals, they bring Stray into the fold. Cuda, a world-weary ex-con who’s trying to rekindle his relationship with his daughter, becomes a mentor of sorts to Stray, which takes on more meaning as they try to find a recently abducted young girl.
The Enforcer is rife with seedy locales and brutal violence, but Hughes’ movie never feels particularly adventurous in terms of characters or the action. Sure, genre junkies don’t need or want a complex narrative when their primary motivation for watching is to see faces get smashed with golf clubs. However, even the most devoted action acolyte would want a story less filled with stale cliches. An angry, violent man attempting to redeem himself by rescuing an innocent, barely pubescent girl from hoods like 2 Chainz and his gang of malcontents is hardly original enough to move the needle.
“…[Cuda and Stray] try to find a recently abducted young girl.”
In the vast majority of cases, intense sequences of action aren’t enough. Whether it be Lethal Weapon or something as varied and frenetic as RRR, snappy dialogue and a few moments of levity goes a long way towards improving the viewer experience by breaking up what would otherwise be a dour experience. And The Enforcer certainly is dour. But for what it’s worth, seeing the baddies get their comeuppance is undeniably cathartic.
The relationship between Stray and Cuda has potential. The debonair mannerisms of Cuda would have contrasted nicely with the uncouth demeanor of Stray, but this isn’t explored at any point in the script. As a result, Iliff really missed the opportunity to flesh out what should have been the most interesting aspect of the narrative.
Maybe Banderas wanted to capitalize on the popularity of the Taken or John Wick franchises, which is entirely understandable. For a man used to covering a wide range of genres, the role of the older action star is one with a certain degree of cultural cache. The Enforcer, though, just isn’t the right vehicle.