THE ISLAND Review: Shaun Paul Piccinino’s Practicable Revenge Thriller Sees Michael Jai White Taking The Fight Home
The Island arrives in select theaters, on demand and digital July 21 from Saban Films.
The Caribbean islands of St. Kitts & Nevis has been bustling in recent years with film production. Such is the plush backdrop of beachfronts and island greens that foundate the deceitfully paradisac locale mired in a bed of criminal corruption now challenged by one vengeful cop on his quest for justice in The Island, from director Shaun Paul Piccinino (The Lackey, American Fighter). As for just how bad is the criminal element in the corruption, the film needs but only the first five unsettling minutes, provided you’re not the kind to wince at the sight of blood.
Written by Michael Caissie and Philippe Martinez, we meet Los Angeles detective Mark (Michael Jai White) as he and partner Phil (Jackson Rathbone) have wrapped up a drug bust gone awry when suddenly, Mark gets a call informing him of his brother’s death. Traveling overseas back home with family, Mark makes it his prerogative to get to the bottom of his brother’s death, as the local police chief Wayland (Wayne Gordon) swamped and lacking in manpower over a region the locals routinely remind Mark is no longer the same as it was when he grew up. Alas, it’s only a matter of time until Mark’s albeit civil interrogatory tactics begin to have an effect, between fighting with gangsters at nightclubs, and shootouts with gunmen who know where he and his remaining family and loved ones live.
Well over thirty years into his acting career, lead actor White has carved himself a notable niche along with a potential advancement for his own production endeavors. And not for nothing either, as his 6’1″ frame and martial arts prowess, and screen caliber have made him one of the most celebrated action stars to date. That’s not necessarily to say that his films are all hits and he’s definitely got some misses; R. Ellis Frazier’s As Good As Dead was okay in my book, although friend and contributing writer Vance Ang had some choice words of his own.
I’m pretty much in the same place I was then with the aforementioned flick, with White turning in another formidable lead performance per usual. It’s enough to carry the film, while seeing him once again with actress and wife Gillian White (Welcome To Sudden Death, Never Back Down 3) in her latest outing alongside White as Akilah, Mark’s on-screen love interest and former flame offers something a little special for fans of both stars. Rathbone pops in for about a small handful of the film, which is interesting seeing as he gets top billing alongside White, and with a role that feels like something any actor could have played. Thankfully, Rathbone is that good enough in character that he doesn’t take away from the film’s enjoyment, that is if you don’t mind a little biting sidekick humor.
What counts especially is what we get among the film’s core antagonists, specifically the role of Manuel played by Edoardo Costa. There’s no overbearing complexity to the nature of Manuel’s villany, as he’s about as evil as it gets when it comes down to his actions, his overall psychosis, and how far he’s willing to go. Costa does terrific in the role, right down to the last scene long after White’s character has pretty much buried just about everyone else. There’s also a point in the film where after another tragedy strikes, White’s lead role steers the story toward a more communal direction in an effort to deliver justice.
White’s signature action starpower remains on full display for The Island with action sequences all provided by Ron Balicki, whose career highlights include working with Steven Seagal, in addition to coordinating for some notable niche faves like William Kaufman’s The Prodigy and Daylight’s End. It’s a bit give and take depending on your tastes, but at the end of the day, White’s centerpiece casting in The Island promises that at the very least, you’ll get what you pay for, along with another reason to keep Piccinino in your purview.
Native New Yorker. Lover of all things pizza, chocolate, pets, and good friends. Karaoke hero. Left of center. Survivor. Fond supporter of cult, obscure and independent cinema - especially fond of Asian movies and global action cinema. Author of the bi-weekly Hit List. Founder and editor of Film Combat Syndicate. Still, very much, only human.