The Enforcer (2022) Review: An irredeemable action thriller that depends on mafia film cliches
Over the decades worth of Mafia films, the gangster crime genre has created several cliches that we no longer find amusing. The deep dive into this world by the likes of Martin Scorsese through his experiential films filled with intricate character studies have left us in awe. Only a few other filmmakers have managed to bring consistently inventive ways to bring newness to such films. The reason that The Enforcer (2022) is a miserable attempt at making a mafia action film lies in the lack of these aspects. It uses overdone formulas of the genre, mostly by B-grade films, and creates a mess of no discernible positive besides ever-reliable Antonio Banderas.
Directed by Richard Hughes, the film stars Antonio Banderas in the lead role as a mafia enforcer named Cuda. Besides him, Kate Bosworth stars in the film and plays the role of his femme fatale boss named Estelle, whose orders he abides by. Mojean Aria plays the role of Stray, a fighter who gets into brawls any time he can get a chance to do so and attacks with the spirit of a dedicated fighter. Cuda learns about his competence after a fight he wins, which puts him on a map of influential people from the crime circle of mafias. He meets Estelle who offers him the role of henchman for Cuda, and he goes along with it.
An alternate narrative takes shape within this one where Antonio’s gangster character comes across a young girl whom he wants to help at any cost. He reminds him of his young daughter, around the same age, who despises him since she learned about the kind of life he leads. The angle of the dysfunctional family for a mafia entity is such a tired trope and still, The Enforcer goes on to use it with a smug seriousness that falls upon its own head. While the complicated father-daughter dynamic doesn’t work due to its lack of inventiveness, even the dynamic of his character with this girl that he comes across feels nothing but a cheap imitation of the nuanced relationship built by Paul Schrader in Taxi Driver. In fact, that was the first thought that came to my mind when Cudo sees the girl and wishes to help her with an intent filled with genuine kindness. He feels like a needlessly rugged version of Travis Bickle and is not developed nearly as much as Scorsese’s character.
The duel between characters from different stages of power is handled with a conventional approach, both in the script and the narration. The tussle hardly makes you emotionally invested in the stakes from their conflict and feels severely undercooked. What might make you want to stick around, as mentioned before already, is the performance by Antonio Banderas, who does nothing exceptionally different or unique, but creates the silent, macho persona of his character consistently appealing. There is a unique ability that this Spanish actor has, which he has carved in over decades’ worth of acting experience, where he can emote without overt expressions. Having worked with the masters of cinema like Pedro Almodovar and being just as efficient in playing underwritten characters from action films, he has managed to add depth to the film by his mere presence. That is what he does over here in this film, which benefits from his presence.
Besides his performance, the cinematography done by Callan Green and his team that creates a setting with its neon-filled nightscapes can keep one interested in experiencing a series of brutal fights. While the camerawork or framing isn’t particularly meaningful, it makes you invested in the thrill of fight sequences. The screenplay written by W. Peter Iliff brings nothing new to the table in terms of a gangster crime action film. It ends up feeling like a long and tiring borefest since it has nothing exceptional to offer.
While Mojean Aria and Kate Bosworth can make you want to stay throughout the duration because of their performances, they are not enough to mask the inadequacies of the film from its scripting to its narration. The arc of redemption that the film attempts through its script might feel satisfying to a viewer. However, what The Enforcer takes you through to reach there is a heap of mess that I wished to have rather skipped.