The Painter 2024 movie review

Arriving on the heels of “The Bricklayer,” featuring Aaron Eckhart as a former CIA agent, “The Painter” introduces Charlie Weber as another ex-CIA operative who has chosen a different path, one you can probably guess. This action film, also modestly scaled, thrusts its tough protagonist back into the world of covert operations amidst a hail of bullets and conspiracy. Brian Buccellato’s script attempts to carve its own narrative, but both the script and director Kimani Ray Smith struggle to infuse credibility and suspense into an uninspired tale that includes Jon Voight and Madison Bailey from the Netflix series “The Outer Banks.” Lacking in most departments, apart from decent pacing and adequate technical polish, this forgettable thriller hits limited U.S. theaters on Jan. 5 and digital platforms on Jan. 9.

Weber portrays Peter Barrett, a CIA dropout turned artist living a solitary life in the Pacific Northwest after a tragic incident that led to his wife Elena (Rryla McIntosh) leaving him. Seventeen years later, living under an alias, Peter is unwillingly thrust back into action when teenager Sophia (Madison Bailey) claims to be their daughter, a revelation that makes no sense to him. Before he can unravel this mystery, his rural home is invaded by heavily armed agents with orders to kill.

Peter, relying on his lethal training, dispatches the intruders and escapes with his supposed daughter. They discover from Peter’s former mentor, Henry Byrne (Voight), that a ruthless Section Chief, Naomi Piasecki (Marie Avgeropoulos), is behind the attack. With the assistance of Agent Kim (Luisa D’Oliveira), she continues to pursue the fugitive duo, while a young psychopath named “Ghost” (Max Montesi) joins the chase.

As the plot unfolds, it becomes clear that the conspiracy involves a top-secret black ops scheme called Project Internship, connecting all the characters. The fiendish plot revolves around kidnapped children brainwashed to become master assassins, reminiscent of paranoid fantasies like “The Boys From Brazil” and “The Manchurian Candidate.” However, “The Painter” lacks the imaginative lift of those films, feeling more like a routine shoot-’em-up with contrived verbal revelations.

The film’s climax delivers a flurry of twists accompanied by black-and-white flashbacks. While director Smith maintains a brisk pace, there’s a lack of stylistic flair to distract from the narrative implausibilities, occasional clunky dialogue, and cookie-cutter characters.

Despite competent performances within the constraints of the material, principal villains Avgeropoulos and Montesi fall short. The film’s attempt at creating scary behavior involves “Ghost” listening to techno music under headphones, and a low-budget “superpower” for Peter, with hypersensitive hearing leading to predictable jump scares. These ideas, though not good, are the closest the film comes to having any original ones.

Filmed primarily in British Columbia, “The Painter” is competent but unremarkable in its technical and design aspects. While it represents a step up from director Smith’s prior work, such as the cannibal action comedy “Evil Feed,” it struggles to leave a lasting impression.

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By acinetv