Change is tough, especially when it's yourself that's trying to do just that. Environment, stress, and simple survival can all be contributing factors in the battle to better oneself. It's only through unimaginable effort that a successful change can be made. Sometimes however, change can happen with the help of someone else. Said other person doesn't even have to do anything usually, only happening to be in a certain situation at a certain time. A catalyst of change can also come in the form of a selfless act - a dream to give someone else a fighting chance at your expense. The selfless act, otherwise known as the backbone of, "Relentless" from writer, director Steven Murphy.
After being released from prison, ex-con Jake reenters a world that although a little dirtier, hasn't really changed all that much. Sure, people have gotten older and new faces populate the streets - but mostly, things are the same. Yet he wants something more for himself, a way out - and he gets one. All he needs to do is stay out of trouble long enough to grab a flight, and get the hell out of Dodge. Seeing some of his old friends only cement the need to get out and start anew - if you can even call them friends. Like many inmates quickly realize once inside, their friends are not really friends and the old saying, "Out of sight, out of mind" is especially true.
Relax, stay out of trouble, and start over - such an easy ideal until it's time to actually attempt to live it. For Jake, everything changes when he comes to the aid of a young prostitute named Ava - and pissing off the local thugs in the process. Now, the pair have to figure out how to not only survive, but just what in the hell to do even if they manage to get through all of this. At its heart, "Relentless" is a film about doing what is right, damn the consequences. It also happens to be an action flick but for me, the drama within the film, and the overall message, was much better than the action sequences. This is a film for the heart, and a surprisingly good one. Just how do Jake and Ava fare by the time the credits roll? You'll simply have to watch and find out for yourself.
For the first few minutes, I'll be honest, I didn't expect anything all that special - an average film at best. Things seemed a little more shaky than I prefer, and I just didn't have an overall good vibe. Then, something strange happened... the film was over the halfway mark and I didn't even notice. "Relentless" was just flying by and I was so interested in the film, I hadn't even bothered taking notes - and that's a huge compliment.
The acting and dialog felt so real and natural, and things felt edited together so well, that this film was just zipping by. Coincidentally, this feeling of speed persisted until the very end and although "Relentless" is an average length film, it feels so much shorter. But what about the action? This is an action film right? Well reader, the violence is gritty - but never over-the-top enough to change the message or tone of the film. Although that message may not be something totally new, and the entire concept of "Relentless" is a little on the cliche side, the way it's delivered just gets to you - as do the characters of Jake and Ava. You've seen similar stories before but Murphy and his troupe of talent make sure "Relentless" doesn't fall into the realm of total cliche. This film is familiar enough to get comfortable with, yet fresh enough to enjoy.
If I had one plot point to question it would have to be the overall time frame. The bond built between Ava and Jake is what makes this movie work, and yet it all happens so fast it's hard to realistically believe it would be possible. Even had this film been spaced out over a few days, instead of just one, a bond between the two would have been more realistic. As it sits now, the situation, dialog, and general chemistry of Jake and Ava are the heartbeat of the movie - until you remember that all this is happening in one day. With that written however, the time frame of this movie seems inconsequential - one small, silly aspect of an otherwise really good film.
So, it all comes down to this - did I enjoy this film? The obvious answer is yes reader, yes I did. Any film that can get a person out of their own head for a short time deserves high praise. Studio, indie, it doesn't matter so long as it does the trick. "Relentless" was a bit of a surprise, an underdog of a movie - if you will. But who doesn't love the underdog? Great job to Steven Murphy and the cast and crew - four stars, easily.