White Elephant (2022) Movie Review – An ironically titled movie that is not worth your time

An ironically titled movie that is not worth your time

Gone are the days when Bruce Willis’s face on a movie poster promised a quality production. As you will probably know already, the Die Hard star has now retired from acting due to a degenerative brain disease that has hampered his cognitive abilities. Thankfully, we can look back on Willis’s glory days with the best movies from his career but anybody hoping to see the actor in a decent movie from the last couple of years before his retirement is going to be out of luck.

Recently, I had the misfortune to review Midnight In The Switchgrass, a low-grade serial killer thriller that is one of Willis’s worst-ever movies. Unfortunately, White Elephant, one of the actor’s final films, is even worse than that dismal effort. It is painful to watch, not only because of the terrible script, poorly orchestrated action scenes, and shonky direction, but because it is all-too-clear that Willis is no longer the actor he once was.

Presumably due to his cognitive decline, the actor’s lines of dialogue are very short. Willis’s delivery of these lines is extremely wooden and this is probably because they were being fed to him through an earpiece. There were moments when he looked completely befuddled by what was going on and while this could have been the director’s fault for failing to provide clarity, it might also be because Willis is quite clearly a shadow of his former self. It was genuinely upsetting to see him on screen and I’m sorry to say it, but I am glad that he has now retired from movie-making.

In terms of the movie itself, it is, as I suggested, absolutely terrible. Willis plays Arnold Soloman, a merciless mob boss, who orders a hit on Flynn (Olga Kurylenko), a police officer who finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time when she witnesses one of the crime lord’s men set off a bomb. Her partner also has a target put on his head but as to whether or not he, or indeed any of the characters survive in this movie, you won’t really care.

The cast is a good one but thanks to the weak and sometimes pretentious script, they have very little to work with. Michael Rooker makes the most impact here as a hit man with a conscience but his performance is far too good for what is ultimately a very forgettable film. John Malkovich pops up occasionally as Arnold’s lawyer and for some reason, he has a penchant for sharing tales of Greek history during the brief moments he appears on the screen. I can only assume he agreed to be in the film as a favour to Willis, his Red co-star, as other than his friendship and the pay cheque, I’m not sure why else he would want to be in it.

White Elephant is directed by Jesse V. Johnson, a former stuntman and stunt coordinator who previously worked with Willis on Mercury Rising. I haven’t seen many of his other movies but on evidence of this one, he isn’t a very good director. Nearly every scene is poorly handled, including the action scenes that should have been his forte. There will be some who excuse the lack of quality because of the film’s low budget but I don’t think that is the biggest problem here. The biggest issue is his lack of care with the whole production, from his lazy directing to the by-the-numbers screenplay that he wrote with Erik Martinez.

The movie is ironically titled. In the English language, ‘white elephant’ is the term used for a useless possession. Anybody owning a copy of the White Elephant DVD will surely nod their head in recognition as, after seeing this lamentable movie once, they are unlikely to watch it again. Thankfully, most people are unlikely to own it anyway because it can easily be found on streaming services online. It’s available to anybody with a Sky or Now TV subscription in the UK and it can be rented elsewhere for those who don’t have a membership.

Of course, you shouldn’t rent White Elephant or add it to your streaming watchlist as you will be wasting your time if you do. This is a limp production with very little merit, other than the talented turn of Rooker who tries to inject a little bit of life with his commendable performance.

Ultimately, this isn’t a movie that can be recommended to anybody, even to Bruce Willis completists who are bound to come away from this one with a heavy heart. Skip it and rewatch Die Hard instead or any of the other movies that Willis made before his health and career decline.

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  • Verdict - 2/10

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