From the shores of France comes Richard Berry’s 22 Bullets (2010), a surprisingly average gangster thriller starring everyone’s favourite French gunsmith Jean Reno. Reno plays Charley Mattei, a former gangster who has given up the thrill of life in the criminal underworld to spend time with his children. However, a hit is put out on him and he is gunned down in a parking lot by a rival mob. The attackers put a horrific 22 bullets into Charley’s body and leave him to die; yet he miraculously survives – which means that Jean Reno is officially tougher than 50 Cent.
What makes 22 Bullets slightly more interesting film is that it doesn’t follow the clichéd conventions. If you read the aforementioned plot and assumed that Reno goes gunning for revenge, you’d be wrong to think so. In fact, we see Charley slowly recover in hospital before vowing to return to his family life. It’s only when a close friend is gunned down in a similiar fashion that he finally seeks vengeance.
However, this does all mean that the film is fairly slow to reach second gear. Despite its graphically violent opening, not a lot happens for long stretches of the narrative. This is not to say that 22 Bullets is necessarily boring, but it does leave you questioning where the film is heading. This first act introduces a lot of characters and it pays well to keep up and take notes, but for me, the film really kicks into motion when Charley confronts the very team of men who gunned down his friend.
Despite a number of undeniable highlights (all due to the gravitas of Reno himself), what disappoints me about 22 Bullets is just how pedestrian it feels for the majority of the running time. What could have been one of the early DVD sleeper hits of 2011 ends up being little more than a forgettable, by the numbers affair.