Directed by Ethan Drake (Apex, Gasoline Alley), American Siege puts Sheriff Ben Watts, played by Bruce Willis, at the center of a hostage situation in a small town in Georgia. In a race against the clock, Sheriff Watts must defuse the situation and stop the corruption spread like wildfire in his small town. On paper, this sounds like the riveting, action-packed thrill ride that a guy like me would be front and center for. There was a time when Bruce Willis was the pinnacle of the action movie star. His roles in films like Die Hard, The Fith Element, and Unbreakable changed the way the industry looked for their leading man. Willis nearly single-handily paved the way for other actors who weren’t the muscleheads from the 80s to kick ass and take names. Sadly, American Siege all but solidifies that time has long since passed.
American Siege wastes no time jumping right into the action, opening with a flurry of scenes that will eventually be the film’s biggest moments. From the onset, the self-proclaimed action thriller promises an eventual bloodbath where Sheriff Watts will eventually save the day in the most heroic fashion. Unfortunately for this action movie fan, that promise is never quite cashed in on. Sheriff Watts in fact doesn’t quite give Willis the screen time promised by the trailer. Instead, American Siege focuses primarily on three outlaws, Grace Baker (Anna Hindman), Toby Cavendish (Johann Urb), and Roy (Rob Gough), who are hellbent on finding out what happened to Bridgit Baker (Sarah May Sommers) who has been missing for over ten years. Despite being presumed dead by Sheriff Watt’s investigation a decade ago, the trio looks to extract the truth from the town’s pharmacist, Dr. John Geats (Cullen G. Chambers).
If there is a bright spot to American Siege, it is the pacing. With just a short 90-minute runtime, the film sets up the hostage situation of Dr. Geats before the 10-minute mark. Viewers learn about the characters quickly through loose exposition that Grace and Toby are siblings of the missing Bridgit while Roy is her former boyfriend. Next, they tie up Dr. Geats, who had a professional relationship with Bridgit, and intentionally alert Sheriff Watts hoping that he will reveal the truth behind her disappearance with the town’s doctor’s life as a ransom. As the plot progresses, more and more threads are untangled, pointing to a more profound criminal element showing that Bridgit may not have been the person the trio thought she was.
At its heart, American Siege has the bones for an exciting story. However, much of it is lost by a story that becomes more and more complicated. Other characters are introduced which requires more exposition that is easy enough to follow but surely does not follow what someone would deem normal conversation. Despite Hindman, Urb, and Chambers delivering fairly memorable performances, most of it is lost in jarring dialogue and disjointed flashbacks. By the time the film’s biggest twists are revealed, the runtime nears its end leaving little for the action-packed climax promised by the start of the film.
The film spends an enormous amount of time having viewers get to know all the characters outside of Sheriff Watts who ultimately boils down to a drunk under the thumb of the main antagonist Charles Rutledge (Timothy V. Murphy). Bruce Willis appears to phone it in many of the scenes giving his best sympathetic southern accent. As the film shows Sheriff Watts that he will save the day in a blaze of glory, I felt myself let down by his lack of involvement in much of the plot. He ultimately follows the troupe of a hero who eventually gains a conscious but by the time that happens in American Siege, it falls flat and I can’t help but think that his character is unnecessary. I would have much preferred to have Grace and Toby be the game-changers as their characters at the very least are dynamic enough to have reason to overcome the threats posed by Charles Rutledge.
What could have been a mildly entertaining action flick with rising actors who I would love to see again in other films, ultimately…. just ends? The first minute of the movie gives really everything exciting that American Siege has to offer and little else. Bruce Willis has his time in the sun to shoot em up and then nothing else in the plot that is set up from the onset is really resolved. It left me wanting more of what I didn’t get and less of what I got. There is a version of American Siege that could rival the great hostage films but its forced focus on Bruce Willis in the waning moments of the film largely makes it forgettable and one to skip.
American Siege is available now on VOD.