Michael Matteo Rossi has an ample share of directing credits on shorts and features all dating back to 2007. I haven’t seen a single one up to this point so, really, if you’re unlike me in that regard, it’s up to you discern how my thoughts on his latest film, The Handler, affect you any.
Clocking in at eighty-five minutes, six of which include runtime for the slow-crawling end-credits, The Handler opens with a montage of Ryker (Chris Levine) at a much happier stage of his life. It’s a nicely shot, airy intro into the film that suddenly pivots to our protagonist, wounded and running to his home with a bag of whatever (I said what I said). At this point, Ryker’s best friend and war buddy, Harris (Tim Banks) has already concealed two weapons in Ryker’s home, and it’s made clear to the viewer that Ryker is expecting some unsavory company in the hours ahead.
As the film toils onward, we come to learn that Ryker used to work for a gangster named Vinnie (Michael Pashan) in order to provide for his wife, Jane (Rachel Alig), and their son. Notwithstanding the fact that we don’t really get to see the extent of Ryker’s employment, it’s all merely suggestive at this juncture, and all that matters is that Ryker wants out, and he’s going to have to fight his way out no matter what.
This is where the film is supposed to get interesting and exciting (key word: supposed). Goons soon arrive in small droves to kill Ryker, one volley after another, only to get neutralized one by one. The only intriguing confrontation lies way ahead in the film with one of the main characters, and its really one of only a few bright spots this film can truly present in its ambitious, albeit flawed execution.
The Handler is almost rife with exactly the kind of overserious and cartoonish acting and screenwriting you would expect from this particular kind of film. It’s not all terrible, but there’s no defending a film that ratios itself as much as it does here, and that especially goes for the action scenes which, while ambitious in some areas, bode as entirely forgettable if not canon fodder.
Most of the henchmen come armed to the teeth, tacked up with guns to get the job done. One henchwoman who looks about as heavy as a twig, comes in and gets the drop on our hero with a stick, forcing him into a struggle. The rest are all really just a hodgepodge of undertrained actors looking for footage to add to their fight reels, and it does nothing to benefig the film the least.
I’ve had my eye on Rossi for a while and have been hoping to see what he can do. Needless to say, he’s still in the field with more content to arrive in the new year, and hopefully it’ll be better than what he’s leaving off here at the tail end of the 2021. As for The Handler, I’ll be surprised (or delighted) if this film ends up as a RiffTrax re-release. If the forgettable and often campy drama and action don’t entertain you, then there’s always the impeefect, albeit far more conceptually thrilling and WAY better Broken Path. And that’s the good news.
The Handler opens on DVD, Digital & On Demand December 7 from Uncork’d Entertainment.