Lou Ferrigno has lead a long and heralded career in Hollywood, but one has to wonder how someone such as himself winds up in a film like Ara Paiaya’s Instant Death. A gritty tale of violence promoted with the tagline “revenge is an understatement,” this painfully dull schlock action film has a mindless script and a production value just above a family home video shot in the mid-2000s. It might be considered exploitation if it weren’t so outright awful.
John Bradley (Ferrigno) is a special forces veteran battling PTSD and struggling to adjust to life outside the service. On the advice of his counselor, John attempts to reconnect with his daughter and granddaughter as a means of finding a tether to reality. While visiting his family John inadvertently crosses a drug dealer embroiled in a street war, but it’s his family that ends up paying his price.
As soon as John learns of the wrongs made against his family, vengeance becomes the name of the game. John hunts down those responsible one by one and forces them to pay the price for their action. The title may suggest this retribution comes fast, and for the lucky ones it certainly does, but more often than not there is a lot of fighting, cursing, and begging before John carries out his will. No one can stop him, which the film makes clear through incredibly basic fight sequences and largely incoherent shootouts.
Very little makes sense in this film, from the gross overreaction on the part of the bad guys early on, to John’s inability to be hurt, but perhaps the most peculiar aspect of all is the fact anyone allows John Bradley back into the world in the first place. There is never any question to his quality of his mental health, nor to fact he tends to get violent whenever cornered. The first thing other characters say to police when they begin to investigate the case is that they should stay out of John’s way because he is out for blood. A smarter screenplay would use these moments and character traits to make a comment about the way we treat our veterans, but Instant Death is too busy trying introduces disposable bad guys with ugly souls to think about the big picture.
None of this, however, can compare to the basement level production value that leaves even the most competent sequences looking cheap. Most scenes appear to have been shot with a DSLR camera and edited with color saturation cut in half. The editing hacks together static shots the linger just a bit too without giving us any real sense of the moment. Nothing has any discernible feeling whatsoever, to be honest. It all just happens, with evil people doing bad things for the sake of hurting others so a while knight that has never done anything right in life other than killing people can do the one thing he does best.
Had Instant Death been released twenty years ago when there was still a sizable market for subpar action films starring people whose fame peaked in the late 1970s or early 1980s it may have found an audience large enough to justify the work put into its creation. People would have found it on DVD rental shelves or in Wal-Mart entertainment sections and picked it up for their dads because they remembered him once mentioning Ferrigno or The Incredible Hulk. Today’s world doesn’t have video stores and Wal-Mart has drastically shrunk their home video department. The world no long has a place for movies like Instant Death, and having seen it I cannot argue a reason why it should. This is garbage cinema without the inherent sense of gun that makes garbage cinema great, which means it’s just trash.