Review: ‘King of Killers,’ starring Alain Moussi, Marie Avgeropoulos, Georges St-Pierre, Stephen Dorff and Frank Grillo

October 15, 2023

by Carla Hay

Shannon Kook, Gianni Capaldi, Kevin Grevioux, Ryan Tarran, Marie Avgeropoulos and Alain Moussi in “King of Killers” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

“King of Killers”

Directed by Kevin Grevioux

Some language in French with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in Tokyo, the action film “King of Killers” has a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few Americans and Asians) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A master assassin assembles other assassins in a competition to try to kill him to prove their worth.

Culture Audience: “King of Killers” will appeal primarily to people who are just want to see a movie with mindless violence and don’t care if the movie’s story is awful and filled with plot holes.

Frank Grillo in “King of Killers” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

“King of Killers” is a terribly conceived mess with bad acting and a nonsensical plot about an assassin overlord pitting other assassins against each other. For an action movie, there are too many scenes of people having boring and witless conversations. Avoid this tone-def and idiotic flop.

Written and directed by Kevin Grevioux, “King of Killers” starts off by showing protagonist Marcus Garan (played by Alain Moussi) being attacked in a warehouse. Marcus is a “wet man” for the U.S. intelligence community, with options to be hired by non-U.S. entities. Will he survive this attack? The movie makes people wait a long time to find out the answer, because it then switches to a flashback that took place one year before.

In this flashback, Marcus is shown to be a loving husband and father. His wife is named Karla Graran (played by Amy Groening), and his daughter is Kimberly Garan (played by Zoe Worn), who’s about 8 or 9 years old. Marcus speaks to Kimberly in French.

Stephen Dorff shares top billing for “King of Killers,” but his role is a useless cameo. He plays a character named Robert Xane, who asks Marcus to do a job for the next day. However, Marcus declines the offer because the next day is the wedding anniversary of Marcus and Karla.

One evening, Marcus is at a bar called Coal Train, where he has certain people under surveillance. In a back room of the bar, there are three men at table. One of them holds what’s called a cyrstal matrix unit that can replace hard drives of any kind. It can contain information for over a million supercomputers.

Marcus barges in on this meeting and gets into a shootout with about five men. He survives, but unbeknownst to Marcus, his wife Karla had followed him to the bar. She was standing outside the room where the shootout took place. And to Marcus’ shock, he sees that Karla has been killed.

The movie then fast forwards to on year later. Marcus is raising Kimberly with the help of Karla’s mother. He’s still working as a secretive operative. Marcus gets a mysterious phone call from a Scottish man named Roman Korza (played by Gianni Capaldi), who tells Marcus about a job offer that will pay $10 million and requires a trip to Tokyo.

Roman is vague about the details of the job, such as who’s doing the hiring and what the job entails. Roman says that Marcus will get the details after Marcus meets with Roman in Tokyo. Marcus thinks he doesn’t have enough information, so he turns down the offer.

But then, Kimberly ends up in hospital because she has an enlarged heart. The medical diagnosis is that her heart is deteriorating and will lead to heart failure, unless she can get a heart transplant, which is a high-priced medical procedure. Marcus suddenly sees how $10 million can come in handy, so he takes the job in Tokyo. (“King of Killers” was actually filmed in Winnipeg, Canada.)

When Marcus arrives in Tokyo, Roman takes him to a remote mansion, where Marcus finds out what the “job assignment” is really a twisted game set up by a self-described master assassin named Jorg Drakos (played by Frank Grillo), who has assembled other top asassins from around the world. Jorg announces to the people in this assembled group that their task is to see which one of them can kill him first. Whoever “wins” by killing Jorg first will get the $10 million. Anyone who doesn’t want to participate will be killed by Jorg. In other words, it’s not a fair fight.

Besides Roman, the other people in this group are:

  • Scott Angus, a deposed J2 member, who set off a war between terrorist factions.
  • Asha Khanna (played by Marie Avgeropoulos), an ex-MI6 operative, who left MI6 after 16 years because she got tired of the “rat race.” Marcus already knows Asha as an assassin rival.
  • Dyson Chord (played by “King of Killers” writer/director Grevioux), a former U.S. Marine Force re-con commander for Dark Forces and a former National Security Agency sweeper.
  • Rick Nigel (played by Ryan Tarran), a former ASIS International security employee, who plays many sides and almost “put a hit on himself.”
  • Ren Hiro (played by Shannon Kook), a Japanese-trained protector whose services go to the highest bidder.
  • Zach Hebron (played by Dennis Lafond), a freelance sniper for military companies.

One of the people in the group doesn’t go far in the game, because this person refuses to participate and gets shot to death by Jorg. The rest of “King of Killer” is a vapid and turgid series of scenes where some of the assassins decide it’s better to eliminate each other first, and the last person standing will be the one to take on Jorg. It’s as stupid as it sounds. Needless to say, Jorg wants to kill them too. Jorg wears a ridiculous-looking green goblin mask as part of his rampage.

Even worse, there are scenes where Jorg could easily be killed by any of the other assassins in the room, but that doesn’t happen, because these dimwits think it’s better to stand around and talk. That’s essentially what clogs up much of the screen time in “King of Killers,” which is truly bottom-of-the-barrel garbage filmmaking. Not even a “plot twist” at the end can redeem this awful movie, which hints at a sequel that will most likely never happen.

Lionsgate released “King of Killers” in select U.S. cinemas, digital and VOD on September 1, 2023.

Review: ‘Bloody Hell,’ starring Ben O’Toole, Caroline Craig, Matthew Sunderland, Travis Jeffery, Jack Finsterer, Meg Fraser and Ashlee Lollback

January 21, 2021

by Carla Hay

Ben O’Toole in “Bloody Hell” (Photo courtesy of The Horror Collective)

“Bloody Hell”

Directed by Alister Grierson

Some language in Finnish with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Helsinki, Finland, and Boise, Idaho, the darkly comedic horror film “Bloody Hell” has a predominantly white cast (with a few African Americans and Asians) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: An American ex-con, who spent eight years in prison for manslaughter, vacations in Helsinki, Finland, where he is kidnapped by a murderous family.

Culture Audience: “Bloody Hell” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in horror movies that have dark humor, but the comedy falls flat in this gruesome and predictable film.

David Hill and Meg Fraser in “Bloody Hell” (Photo courtesy of The Horror Collective)

It’s not easy to mix offbeat humor with horror. And that’s why there are very few horror comedies that can truly be considered classics. “Bloody Hell” tries very hard to be an eccentric-minded horror movie, but the comedy is weak and the horror is just gory but not very scary at all. Directed by Alister Grierson, “Bloody Hell” fares better visually than it does with the movie’s mediocre acting and the movie’s screenplay (written by Robert Benjamin), which has a lot of terrible dialogue and hollow characters.

The central character in “Bloody Hell” is Rex Coen (played by Ben O’Toole), an American in his early 30s who lives in Boise, Idaho. Throughout this 93-minute movie, there is absolutely nothing revealed about Rex’s background before this one pivotal moment in his life: One day, Rex goes into a bank called the Sawtooth County Credit Union, with the intention of flirting with a bank teller named Madeleine “Maddy” Augustine (played by Ashlee Lollback), whom he’s apparently had a crush on for quite some time.

What starts out as a fairly uneventful bank visit descends into mayhem when four masked and armed robbers with shotguns burst into the bank and take everyone hostage. The bank customers are ordered to stay on the ground, while the employees are ordered to get the cash that the robbers want. The four robbers (played by Ryan Tarran, Scott George, Daniel Weaver and Brad McMurray) are each wearing a terrifying mask: a demon, a werewolf, a lizard and a gorilla.

Just by chance, one of the women who’s crouched near Rex happens to have her purse open, and he sees that she has a pistol inside her purse. The expression on Rex’s face tells viewers that if the purse was closer, he would make a move and take the gun and try to be a hero and save everyone. And what do you know: When the robbers order the customers to throw their wallets and purses at them, this woman’s purse flies through the air and happens to land right in Rex’s lap.

He ends up taking the gun and has a shootout with the armed robbers, even though he’s outnumbered and outgunned. Rex corners one of the robbers in a room and shoots him, but a stray bullet accidentally kills a woman named Angela Reynolds (played by Oakley Kwon), who had been hiding in a nearby closet. Rex ends up being convicted of manslaughter for her death.

Throughout the movie, there are flashbacks to this bank robbery and Rex’s trial. Giving this information in bits and pieces doesn’t serve the story very well because it still doesn’t reveal much information about Rex. At Rex’s trial, the overzealous prosecutor (played by Charles Allen) shouts when he declares of Rex’s reckless actions during the bank robbery: “This wasn’t self-defense! This was madness!”

Rex is sentenced to eight years in prison. And when he gets out of prison, he’s surprised when he goes into a grocery store to see that his prison release is on the cover of a tabloid magazine. He’s also recognized by strangers every time he goes out in public. People, including paparazzi, want to take his picture. Some people treat him like a folk hero, while other people treat him like a repulsive criminal.

One of the worst things about “Bloody Hell” is that Rex hallucinates having an alter ego, which is supposed to represents his conscience. Therefore, there are many scenes in the movie where he has conversations with an avatar that looks exactly like Rex. The idea itself isn’t bad, but the dialogue is mostly drab and witless.

“Bloody Hell” also repeats an annoying gimmick of Rex having fantasies of things happening, but it’s presented as ‘”real” in the movie until it’s revealed that it was all in Rex’s imagination. For example, in a scene that takes place shortly after Rex gets out of prison, he’s eating at a diner by himself while some paparazzi are inside the diner taking photos of him. In frustration, Rex gets up and overturns the table. But it’s quickly shown that this angry outburst was all in his head.

Rex meets up with a bartender friend named Pete (played by Joshua Brennan), who has held some of Rex’s possessions for safekeeping while Rex was in prison. One of the items that Pete has is Rex’s passport. Having Rex meet up with a friend would be an opportunity for the filmmakers to give more insight into the type of life that Rex had before the bank robbery. But it’s a missed opportunity because it’s a very bland and boring scene that reveals almost nothing about Rex except that he wants his passport.

Rex seems unaware of how divisive his notoriety is with the public, until Pete tells him that it’s because the public doesn’t seem to know the whole story of what happened during the bank robbery. Pete says to Rex, “In some versions of the story, you’re the Dark Knight. In others, you’re the Joker.”

Rex needs his passport because he’s decided to take a getaway vacation to Helsinki, Finland. Why? Because when he was in prison, he had a world map in his prison cell, and when he threw spitballs at the map, the spitballs kept landing on Finland. Yes, it’s that kind of movie.

While in the airport waiting area to go to Finland, Rex notices a middle-aged man and woman who are seated together behind Rex and are staring at him. He doesn’t think much of it, because it’s not unusual for people to stare at him or approach him when he’s in public. But suddenly, another man whom Rex has never seen before sits down next to Rex and warns Rex that the man and the woman are out to get Rex.

Rex assumes this is just another crazy person who’s approached him, so he also doesn’t take this warning seriously. But sure enough, when he arrives in Helsinki, his rideshare driver suddenly puts on a gas mask, fills the car with an unidentified gas, making Rex pass out. The poorly written movie never explains how this kidnapping was coordinated so perfectly.

Rex wakes up in a dungeon-like room, with his hands tied above him. And to his horror, he sees that his right leg has been amputated at the knee. And that’s when he finds out that he’s been captured by a sadistic Finnish family whose thrill is hunting humans, killing them, and eating them. The middle-aged man and woman who were staring at Rex at the airport are the family’s unnamed married patriarch (played by Matthew Sunderland) and matriarch (played by Caroline Craig), who oversee these horrendous murders.

This husband and wife have five children. The four oldest children are in their 20s: identical twin sons Gael and Gideon (played by Travis Jeffrey); son Pati (played by Caleb Enoka); and daughter Ali (played by Meg Fraser). The couple’s youngest child Olli (played by David Hill) is about 6 or 7 years old.

The parents and their adult sons are the ones who are the most involved in the killings. Ali refuses to kill anyone, so she’s kept in a cage. She’s only let out of the cage to do household chores and to help take care of Olli. Ali has to read Olli bedtime stories where he’s taught that it’s fun to hunt Americans and kill them.

A flashback in the beginning of the movie shows that Ali tried to run away from home when she was a teenager (played by Jessi Robertson), but the twins and her father caught her in the woods and took her back home. As for Pati, he’s supposedly so fearsome that the family only brings him out when they’re ready to scare their victims the most.

During Rex’s capture, Ali is kept in a cage in the same room. Ali tells Rex: “I like you. My family is insane, but you can’t kill them.” It’s very easy to see where the movie is going to from there, given Rex’s tendency to want to be a hero in an “against all odds” situation.

The problem with “Bloody Hell” is that even if the filmmakers wanted to have a very predictable ending, they could’ve made the movie more interesting to watch along the way, but they didn’t bother to do much to make this movie fully engaging. The conversations in this movie have no real spark or innovation. The personalities of these characters are almost non-existent. Rex is written as someone who’s supposed to be a wise-cracking, adventuresome type, but he comes across as tedious with a dumb sense of humor.

As for the action and horror scenes, they’re not very impressive and are extremely derivative of better-made horror flicks about people who are kidnapped and tortured, such as 2004’s “Saw.” Unfortunately, “Bloody Hell” does not have any real terror or surprises that a movie like “Saw” was able to convey. The visual effects in Bloody Hell” that show the “look-alike characters” (Rex and his alter ego; the same actor playing twins) are adequately done. But the horror in the movie is extremely formulaic and shows no imagination.

“Bloody Hell” has the very overused, unoriginal and outdated horror trope of a “damsel in distress” (Ali), whose only purpose in the movie is to be a pretty girl who’s not very smart and who needs a brave man to rescue her and be her obvious love interest. Today’s horror movie audiences have become bored with these stereotypes, as evidenced by the horror movies that make the most money these days. And if a comedic horror movie is geared toward an adult audience, based on all the bloody violence in it, that movie better have humor that adults can appreciate, not the childish and dull comedy that makes “Bloody Hell” a bloody bore.

The Horror Collective released “Bloody Hell” in select U.S. cinemas and drive-in theaters and on digital and VOD on January 14, 2021. The movie’s release date on Blu-ray and DVD was January 19, 2021.

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