A cliché sandwich served with extra clichés and a dish of cliché on the side for dipping, Steven C. Miller’s Marauders actually has the makeup of a good thriller. This 2016 motion picture isn’t that bad given the territory and the screenplay by Michael Cody and Chris Sivertson doesn’t try to do too much. At all.
Those familiar with the direct-to-video market will find themselves at home with Marauders in that it seems like a cozy place for a few stars to cozy up for a couple bucks. This is not big budget paycheque stuff, so it’s kind of nice to see someone like Bruce Willis around – even if he is phoning it in.
The movie takes place in Cincinnati, where robbers are knocking over banks owned by Jeffrey Hubert (Willis). The FBI is on the case, with special agent Jonathan Montgomery (Christopher Meloni) heading up the investigation. He assembles a case that leads to a presumable dead end.
Things get cooking when information is revealed about an Army Ranger operation gone wrong, a rogue team of Special Forces dudes gone haywire and a case of benevolent thieves. Together with special agent Stockwell (Dave Bautista) and newbie special agent Wells (Adrian Grenier), Montgomery zeroes in on the bad guys.
Right out of the box, Marauders gets to the business of the heist. The thieves wear skull masks and cut an impressive visage. They use a voice recording deal that ensures they aren’t heard in the robbery. It’s kind of clever and the burglars are professional to a fault.
Meloni is a capable lead and he’s introduced as a guy with problems. His wife is dead and he’s suffering through her absence. He wants to do right by her because how she died, but vengeance is the sturdier urge and Montgomery really wants to put away the bad guys in the world.
Because the moral argument requires the force of a sledgehammer, Marauders also includes Detective Mims (Johnathon Schaech). His wife has terminal cancer and he’s inflicted by guilt because he doesn’t want her to leave and he’s up to some bad stuff. He rationalizes the bad stuff and tries to rationalize some good stuff because he wants to atone for the bad stuff.
If Marauders allowed the characters to grow organically, the moral elements would ring with validity and some level of interest. But the screenplay presents these features as pieces of obligatory material, as though these characters couldn’t make do without dying/dead spouses.
Grenier’s character is the new guy trying to navigate the world of the FBI and he’s put out there to track Mims, who Montgomery thinks is up to something. Of course, anyone with even the most rudimentary understanding of how these things work can see right through Wells. That takes the shine off the apple.
Willis’ character isn’t around much, but his primary job is to clash with Meloni’s character in what Marauders sets up as epic De Niro/Pacino meet-and-greets. Think Heat, but without heat. Ditto for the robberies, which utilize Brandon Cox’s straggling lens in fractional homage – right up until the point when things get goddamn indistinct.
Marauders is kind of pointless and kind of tortured in that it’s full of rented material. Make no mistake: rented material can sometimes make for a great finished product, particularly if there’s a pulse. But Miller forgot the heart in this one and the resulting slab is just another empty shell.