Former Houston Movie Examiner for Examiner. Currently a film critic in the Houston, TX area. Member of the Houston Film Critics Society.
In case you’ve forgotten that Hayden Christensen is still an active actor pursuing new projects and actually getting paid to pretend to have talent, the film First Kill will remind you why Christensen has never been taken seriously as a respected entertainer or performer of the craft. From director Steven C. Miller (Marauders, Automaton Transfusion) and first-time full-length screenwriter, Nick Gordon, is an action thriller revolving around a Wall Street broker named Will (Christensen). Will’s son Danny (Ty Shelton) is bullied often at school. In an attempt to toughen him up, Will takes Danny to the rural town he grew up in for a hunting trip. A wounded bank robber named Levi (Gethin Anthony) takes Danny hostage after the hunt injects the father and son into an argument over a recent heist. Will is forced to negotiate for his son’s life. However, Will’s sleuthing around catches the eye of local Police Chief Howell (Bruce Willis).
Most of us haven’t seen anything Hayden Christensen has done since the Star Wars prequels (unless Awake, Jumper, or Takers count). Even though the Canadian-born actor is only 36, he has aged horribly. His face droops and sags in places that should be firm and exuberant. When Bruce Willis and Hayden Christensen share screen time, all you can do is wonder and compare as you stare in disbelief pondering over who has aged worse.
Lacking In... Everything
First Kill is lacking anything remotely close to entertainment. The rigid acting is felt throughout the cast. Megan Leonard struggles to find a purpose for herself when she’s not attempting to push out constipated crocodile tears. Hayden Christensen seems to be the most comfortable with his atrocious lack of talent. The transition he has between emotions over the course of the film jolts the fiber of your being like a sharp detour leading you off a steep cliff. Bruce Willis seems to only be embracing old age at this point; he shouts a lot, he’s grumpy, and he can’t keep young people off his lawn. In all honesty, he seems to be disgusted with every minute of being in this film and it shows every time he opens his mouth.
One Promising Character
The only individual with any promise is Gethin Anthony and that’s solely because Levi is written as the worst bank robber of all time. First Kill goes out of its way to make Levi seem like this philosophical saint. Levi gives Danny life lessons, acts like a role model, and is more of a father figure to Danny than Will is by actually showing interest in what Danny likes, interacting with him, and being open and honest with him rather than shooting a cop and lying about it. It’s as if First Kill is purposely persuading the audience to sympathize with Levi, which makes no sense since Will’s family are the protagonists of the story. If this film didn’t have some sort of Killer Instinct endorsement, then it certainly seems like they’re missing out. It is pretty much all Levi and Danny talk about and is mentioned or featured on-screen prominently.
The story tries to bait the audience into forced compassion and a poorly executed reveal that you’ll notice from the opening moments of the film. As little bits of harsh truths are sprinkled throughout the film, leading to what screenwriter Nick Gordon was probably hoping to be a sly and slippery cat out of a well-concealed bag, the execution of these sequences leaves you scratching your head momentarily before eventually piecing it all together long before the final confrontation.
A Joke Without a Punchline
First Kill doesn’t try hard enough to be a guilty pleasure and it isn’t the humorous kind of awful that bestows a legendary or cult classic kind of status to low-budget films. This is a film that was apparently shot in less than two weeks and it shows. With horrendous storytelling, a talentless cast, and a heavy rain sequence that is only memorable because Hayden Christensen’s heavy breathing drowns out the sound of the rain, First Kill is the setup to a bad joke without the punchline.
Tom Arnold on August 04, 2017:
This is one of the worst films of the year. The script and acting are horrendous. I can't believe Bruce Willis has sunk to this level. Aside from collecting a paycheck, he put no effort into this mess. Hayden Christensen is equally as bad. No talent, no emotion, no effort. Zero stars!
Ryan from Louisiana, USA on July 24, 2017:
Yeah, that is why I wish he would do another Die Hard and redeem the series again. I remember when I heard they were making the fifth one and I was excited but I felt they rushed it way too quick. It had some cool action but definitely my least favorite in the series.
Movie Whisperer from Moreton Bay, Queensland on July 22, 2017:
I dunno Ryan, the most recent installment of Die Hard was getting up there with the B class train. Full of catch phrases peppered too much through a not so great script. I agree its a shame though, the first few were amazing.
Ryan from Louisiana, USA on July 22, 2017:
I hate to see Bruce Willis making films like this. I do not know why he is now a B actor. He is one of my favorite actors and the Die Hard series is one of my all time favorite action movie series. I am hoping one day he will make it back to the big screen as a A movie talent.