Michael Jai White beat 'em up doesn't reinvent wheel, doesn't need to.
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“The Island” (now available in select theaters and on VOD) isn’t an especially good movie. It’s definitely not the best film entitled “The Island” (that honor would likely go to Michael Ritchie’s 1980 entry or Michael Bay’s 2005 offering), but it’s a fun throwback to action flicks of the 1980s and 1990s.
Michael Jai White stars as Mark an LAPD officer who returns to the tropical island he grew up on after his brother Akeem (Tristan Duncan) is brutally murdered by his employer infamous gangster Manuel (Edoardo Costa) for spilling wine on a dress belonging to chanteuse Nora (Cami Storm). It’s here that Mark reunites with his mother and karate instructor ex-wife Akilah (White’s real-life wife Gillian) and has hopes of getting to the bottom of what happened to Akeem.
“The Island” is directed by stuntman-turned director Shaun Paul Piccinino (interestingly, he has experience directing romcoms “That’s Amor” and “Holiday Harmony” for respective streamers Netflix and Max) and written by Michael Caissie (he had a hand in penning the panned 2017 Al Pacino thriller “Hangman”) and Philippe Martinez (he previously wrote, produced and directed the early aughts Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle “Wake of Death”).
“The Island” in no way, shape or form reinvents the wheel, but what it does it does well. This doesn’t hit the heights of White’s best works (those being “Undisputed II: Last Man Standing,” “Blood and Bone” and “Black Dynamite” … seriously, see these movies if you’re into this sort of shit and haven’t!), but the martial artist still has surprises up his pant legs and sleeves even at the advanced age of 55.
The movie’s highlight is a bar fight in which White’s Mark wrecks a bunch of attackers with a series of impressive spin kicks capped off by a dude trying to tattle on him and getting viciously and vigorously capped for his troubles. The sequence called to mind similar instances seen in Steven Seagal’s heyday of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.
“Twilight” fixture Jackson Rathbone turns up as Mark’s partner Phil. Rathbone lends the picture some much-needed humor and I enjoyed the chemistry between he and White. I could have gone for far more of him however as he only appears at the film’s opening and conclusion. As such, I find it curious that Rathbone’s prominently featured on the movie’s poster. Methinks the filmmakers wanted some of that “Twilight” cha-ching.
I’m likely more inclined to dig “The Island” than most folks as I’m a huge fan of White’s, but it’s far from his worst offering. I’d be game to see a sequel featuring more interplay between he and Rathbone. In the meantime I’ll be over here eagerly anticipating White’s upcoming Western “Outlaw Johnny Black.”