Review: ‘Take Back,’ starring Mickey Rourke, Michael Jai White, James Russo and Gillian White

September 5, 2021

by Carla Hay

Michael Jai White and Gillian White in “Take Back” (Photo courtesy of Shout! Studios)

Take Back”

Directed by Christian Sesma

Culture Representation: Taking place in Coachella Valley, California, the action film “Take Back” features a cast of African American and white characters (with a few Latinos and Asians) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: An attorney’s past comes back to haunt her as she and her husband become involved in vigilante justice for a sex trafficking ring that has kidnapped their daughter. 

Culture Audience: “Take Back” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching low-quality and ridiculous action flicks.

Mickey Rourke in “Take Back” (Photo courtesy of Shout! Studios)

“Take Back” is a good way to describe the “I want a refund” regretful response of viewers if they have the misfortune of buying or renting this atrocious action flick. You have to wonder what this movie’s producers were thinking to waste money on such an obvious junkpile flop that’s embarrassing to everyone involved. “Take Back” is yet another female exploitation film that tries to look nobler than it really us, just because there’s a vigilante mother who’s one of the main characters. There’s absolutely nothing worth admiring about this movie, unless you think it’s admirable to see Mickey Rourke as a gangster who adores his pet Pomeranians. A sleepwalker has more energy than the “I just don’t care anymore” performance that Rourke has in this awful dreck.

Directed by Christian Sesma and written by Zach Zerries, “Take Back” fails on almost every level of filmmaking. The acting is terrible, the plot and dialogue are beyond stupid, and even the action scenes in this movie are pathetic. Everything is sloppily filmed. About the only thing that the movie has going for it is it that has a few cast members with name recognition, such as Rourke and Michael Jai White, who both have been making trashy, low-budget movies for the past several years.

“Take Back” (which takes place in California’s Coachella Valley) opens with the kidnapping of two drunk women in their 20s who stumble out of a bar, flirt with each other, and then get abducted by men driving by in a van. The men are part of a sex trafficking ring led by a slothful thug named Patrick (played by Rourke), who spends half of his screen time lying on a bed and stroking his Pomeranians. It’s later revealed that Patrick’s real name is Jack, and he has a past connection to one of the movie’s protagonists.

The kidnapped women, one of whom is named Veronica Sanders (played by Emily Unnasch), are taken to a locked and dirty shed in a remote part of the valley, where they are held captive with about five or six other young and pretty women. The goons who are their captors are shown physically harassing and attacking the women in more than one scene. Patrick occasionally checks in on the kidnapping victims, but he lets his henchmen do most of the work in guarding the terrified women. Patrick uses the words “the merchandise” to describe these women.

Meanwhile, married couple Brian (played by Michael Jai White) and Zara (played by Gillian White) are spending their seventh wedding anniversary by boxing each other in a gym for fun. Brian is a martial arts instructor, while Zara is a successful real estate attorney who works for a private law firm. (Michael Jai White and Gillian White are married in real life.)

Zara is Brian’s second wife and the stepmother to Brian’s bright and obedient daughter Audrey (played by Priscilla Walker), who’s about 15 or 16 years old. Audrey’s mother is Brian’s ex-wife, who is not seen in the movie, but there’s a minor subplot where the ex-wife dies of cancer. Michael Jai White is the only cast member in this train wreck movie who seems to make an effort to have believable acting, but it’s still comes out looking corny. As for Gillian White’s acting, let’s just say that “Take Back” is proof that nepotism in getting a movie role can actually make a movie worse.

Now that viewers know that Zara and Brian have fighting skills, Zara is next seen in a small coffee shop, where she puts some of those skills to use when she gets involved in a harrowing incident. A very angry and mentally unstable man has come into the coffee shop, where he begins yelling at the barista (played by Lucia Romero), who seems to be the only employee in the shop. Apparently, the barista was in a relationship with this furious ex, and now he’s threatening her with gun.

And just like that, Zara goes into action by disarming this creep and holding him until he can get arrested. Another customer in the shop has videorecorded the whole incident on his phone. The video soon goes viral and gets more than 1 million views in a short period of time. A woman from Zara’s past has seen this video and is about to pay an unwanted visit to Zara at Zara’s law office.

The woman is named Nancy (played by Jessica Uberuaga), who looks like she’s more comfortable hanging out at a truck stop than at a law firm. She wears garish makeup, a revealing tank top and ripped denim shorts. And she’s often seen vaping. What are the odds that she knows Patrick the pimp?

Nancy also seems to know Zara too. When she shows up at Zara’s office without an appointment, she insists on talking to Zara. Nancy tells Zara that she saw Zara’s viral video and says she knows that Zara’s real name is Kim. Zara insists to Nancy that her name isn’t Kim. Zara also claims that she’s never seen or met Nancy before, but Nancy says that Zara is lying.

Zara tells Nancy to leave the office, by yelling, “Leave me the fuck alone!” But you just know that Zara and Nancy are going to see each other again. This unexpected visit seems to have unnerved Zara, which means that she’s got a big secret that will eventually be revealed. The secret is not surprising at all, considering this movie is as subtle as a bulldozer in a junkyard, which is kind of like how you could describe the abominable acting in this film.

Less than 48 hours after Zara disarmed the crazed gunman in the coffee shop, she goes through another violent experience. While she’s home alone one day, a thug named Cisneros (played by David Will No) breaks into the house with the intent to kill her. Zara is able to fight off her attacker in the living room, and she kills him with a samurai sword that conveniently happens to be in the room. Before this attack, Cisneros was seen talking on a phone to a boss who ordered this home invasion. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out who this boss is.

All this trauma in a short period of time has left Zara with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The PTSD comes out in an incident where Zara agreed to help Brian with potential new students at a boxing demonstration at a dojo. However, Zara has a flashback freakout and starts pummeling Brian too hard during the demonstration, and then she abruptly runs out of the building.

This PTSD puts a strain on Zara and Brian’s marriage. And then Brian’s ex-wife dies of cancer. And just so more bad things can happen to this family, Brian and Audrey are driving in Brian’s car when they get carjacked. Brian is tasered while Audrey is kidnapped. What are the odds that Audrey was kidnapped by the sex-trafficking ring that’s run by Patrick?

The kidnapping is reported to law enforcement, but Zara and Brian think that the cops won’t be of much help. And so Zara and Brian take the law into their own hands and go on a mission to find and rescue Audrey themselves. You know exactly how this is all going to end.

There are three characters connected to law enforcement who play a role in this predictable story. Anthony DeMarco (played by Nick Vallelonga) is a former detective who knows a lot about Patrick because he was tasked with investigating Patrick years ago. Detective Frank Schmidt (played by James Russo) and his cop partner Detective Perez (played by Jay Montalvo) are investigating the recent kidnappings.

Another supporting character is Jerry Walker (played by Chris Browning), one of Zara’s clients. Jerry owns a vast park called Lake Cahuilla that he inherited from his father. The scenes were actually filmed at Lake Cahuilla Veterans Regional Park, a 71-acre property owned by California’s Riverside County and located near the Santa Rosa Mountains. Jerry’s property ends up being a part of this movie’s very flimsy plot. “Take Back” is time-wasting trash that should be avoided at all costs, unless you’re a masochist who is compelled to see all of Rourke’s horrible movies in the final years of his career.

Shout! Studios released “Take Back” in select U.S. cinemas, digital and VOD on June 18, 2021.

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