Straight to video films generally lack in quality so imagining an ocean of action films that are possibly worse than the higher budgeted action films is not far fetched. Action films in general offer a wide range of approach in execution, but unfortunately they also have negative stigmas to overcome. In particular to the ever famous claim that no one watches action movies for the stories which is far from the truth. A great story can make an action movie unforgettable which is proven with Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark. However, plotless, and brainless action movies aren’t off the table for enjoyment either as Mad Max: Fury Road is currently the most critically acclaimed of these plotless action films. Sure it has a story, but the spoonfed dialogue, loosely written story, and simple characters results in underwhelming writing. Close Range offers pretty much the same thing; simple characters, a loosely written story, but loads of good action scenes for your entertainment in 81 minutes.
Close Range is about a rogue soldier turned outlaw who is thrust into a fight with a corrupt sheriff, and a dangerous drug cartel in order to protect his sister and her young daughter. That synopsis is about as much as the story evolves, or develop in the course of yes 81 minutes. It’s bare bone storytelling relying on basic character archetypes that can be defined as the good guy, and the bad guy. With its length there’s little room for character development. That includes lead character Colton MacReady (whose last name is what I usually order at McDonald’s) whose characterization is simply to make Scott Adkins (who plays Colton MacReady) look cool. Colton characterization paints him in a good light usually by his family whom only say positive things about him. What is strange about the simplistic storytelling are its intention are clearly too just string together a series of action scenes. This is evident by some leap in logic in the story from the corrupt sheriff who doesn’t call for backup when a dispatcher tells him she heard heavy gunfire from a phone call, to a drug kingpin who only takes a handful of henchman despite the hero killing dozen of his men including his son very early in the film, and if Colton MacReady is on the run why isn’t the military shown to be chasing after him. It’s brought up that Colton put a superior officer in the hospitals, and was meant to be jailed so one would expect the military actually be bother to pursue Colton. This plot point goes nowhere as there isn’t a single character dedicated to represent the military in any way. It’s usage is to make Scott Adkins appear more dangerous, and cool, even though he’s already both of those things.
One aspect of the writing that goes against the simplistic story, and characters is Sheriff Jasper Calloway (Nick Chinlund). Unlike the other characters whom fall under the good, or bad category the film attempted to make Jasper Calloway fall in the middle category. However, the treatment of his character is out place with the rest of the film writing. Jasper Calloway doesn’t have allot of screen time to paint him in a grey zone. He’s given the position of evil, but loving family man without bothering to mention if what he did was due to desperation. It simply comes across that Jasper despite his personal life status did what he did only for money. There’s Colton sister, Angela Reynolds (Caitlin Keats) who is a better representation of the grey zone resorting to shady activities to pay for a home. Unlike Jasper Calloway, Angela Reynolds is given the role of damsel in distress until the latter part of the film. She works in the confined of what the film aims for whereas Jasper Calloway clearly shows signs of wanting to uphold the law, but his character isn’t explored so it ends up going nowhere. Calloway is also purposeless since his second biggest contribution in the story is sending officers to chase Colton for a car chase. By the standard definition the film leaves many things to be desired none more important than tension for a rush of excitement seeing our hero struggle to stay alive. However, the film applies the rule of cool approach to its writing preferring to stylize for entertainment. It doesn’t pretend to be more than more what it wants to be, which is a brainless action movie, and the writing complements it with a length that makes sure it doesn’t drag out it welcome.
Scott Adkins takes charge in a leading role that require little in the acting department from him. Adkins only requirement is to look tough, sound angry in most of his line delivery, and perform the action scenes convincingly. He fits the bill of good action star looking right in the role while putting in a solid performance as a tough guy. It’s not showcasing Adkins skill much in the acting department as he is constantly in action hero mode. For the role, Scott Adkins only goal is to convince you he’s awesome, and pulls it off. Having both the look, and skills to perform what required of him in elaborate action scenes he makes enduring through the film lesser moments of excitement worth it.
Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the rest of the cast. Nick Chinlund, Caitlin Keats, Jake La Botz, Tony Perez, and Madison Lawlor deliver one note performances from pure evil (Tony Perez), unlikable douche bag (Jake La Botz), scared child (Madison Lawlor), and so forth. The supporting cast roles are pretty much an afterthought by having little material where they change emotions. Most facial expressions from actors don’t change when they are introduced to when it finally ends. At most, Nick Chinlund is the most dynamic of the supporting cast, but always comes across agitated. Chinlund doesn’t have the skill to make his character come across as sympathetic. Other cast members like Jake La Botz, and Caitlin Keats deliver exposition most of the time. Resulting in tedium when they don’t speak like people. Caitlin Keats at least gets to perform in the action in the last of act of the film, though not for long, and not performing anything that nearly as elaborate as what Scott Adkins has to pull off. She still deserves of praise for making her moment in the action seem convincing.
Fight choreography is credited to Jeremy Marinas who should applauded for his work on Close Range. The film opens quite ambitiously by having Scott Adkins beat up a bunch of goons single handily in a Mexican compound in one take. Despite the limitation that comes with the one take shot the opening action sequence is well filmed, and performed. One aspect in this fight that works in its favor is its in a enclosed area with not many people in the background. Keeping focus on Scott Adkin fighting whoever is in front of him. Another standout sequence is a one sided fight between Scott Adkins, and Jeremy Marinas. There’s no suspension of who will win the fight, but both actors make it entertaining by allowing each to offer blows before the eventual end of it. Switching battle tactics frequently in the fight turn the tide of the fight in their favor. While the action sequences favors a combination of gunfights inter splice with constant bullet dodging in the third act it does contain a good car chase, fight scenes including a climax that combines it with gunplay, and other set pieces to satisfy the checklist of variety in violence. It’s final act is where it begins to stop caring about logic as characters seamlessly fire endless rounds of bullets from a single clip. All of this is made more impressive when a majority of these set pieces take place in a two story house. This house gets filled with bullet holes, broken glass, and eventually having a few dead bodies. Due to the story, the film doesn’t offer a high body count, but more than makes up for it in quality. It’s an understatement when saying the production team made great use of everything at their disposal.
Close Range is a satisfactory film for action junkies. The story while simple is clear in its intention to string together a series of action scenes which is why it only bothers to make our hero awesome, and our bad guys villainous. With a length of 81 minutes the film never outstays its welcome being capable of filling the quota of viewers looking for popcorn entertainment. Its low budget action filmmaking from the duo of Scott Adkins, and director Isaac Florentine whom keep on pushing the boundaries of what’s capable with a low budget action filmmaking for the better. While the writing won’t leave an impression it will at least entertain while it last.