The action director’s WWII clash is shaggy but enjoys a deadly climax and a great set.
Occupied France. 1941. Self-centered and romantic SS Colonel Von Brückner (Daniel Bernhardt) and his alleged French mistress Marie (Nina Bergman) are ambushed by the Resistance as they attempt to hide the stolen gold from Von Brückner’s superiors. They survive.
France liberated. 1944. Marie, hated as a collaborator, concludes a deal with a small group of American soldiers, led by the cynical and pragmatic Major Maitland (Louis Mandylor). In exchange for saving her from tar and feathers, Marie will lead Maitland and his men to the cemetery where the gold is hidden. They will secure their financial future and Marie will live.
Would it be that simple. Marie has secrets – some she kept by choice, and others forced upon her by bad hand after bad hand after bad hand. She played many roles and was declared many things during the war, and at this point all she wants is to end it.
But Maitland wants the gold. He wants his gold. And while he’s burnt
–outside, two of the three men under his command are completely rotten. A lone Resistance member named George (Dominique Vandenberg), who has a history with Marie, tries to charge by setting the guns alight. As the Nazis flee France, Von Brückner, now scarred, takes a few loyal men and makes a detour.
There will be blood.
It’s a treat to see Johnson continually honing his craft as an action director, but what’s even more striking is how Hell has no fury is a straight and dark drama.
Hell has no fury is the darkest and most gruesome film prolific action filmmaker Jesse V. Johnson has made since the Pulp Revenger of 2017. Wild dog. As a war film with slight capers and supernatural elements, this is a stylistic change from his previous action work with Scott Adkins. These include, in addition to Wild dog, injured man, the two Debt collector movies, starry action Triple threat, and the masterpiece in its own right revenge—One of the best movies of 2019.
Indeed, Hell has no furyThe action of is, by design, much cruder than in most of Johnson’s recent work. Marie, Maitland, his men and George were brought alive by the war. They are creative, motivated and knowledgeable, but none of them came to the graveyard with the intention of fighting. Even Von Brückner, who made plan of violence, is hardly comparable to say, the sneering villain of Pilou Asbæk in Suzerain. Hell has no furyThe fights of are chaotic (in content, not in execution), exhausted and as dependent on the luck of the fighters as on their martial abilities.
It’s a treat to see Johnson continually honing his craft as an action director, but what’s even more striking is how Hell has no fury is a straight and dark drama. Her script (by Katherine Lee McEwan) is a bit shaggy before the main cast reunites and the timeline catches up with the present. His dialogue is sometimes too explanatory. But that said, it does showcase some really good character work, which Johnson and the cast put to good use.
Bergman’s Marie seeks an end. She is exhausted, terrified and exasperated by everything she’s been through. She has been called a liar so many times that she doesn’t expect to be believed when she tells the truth, even though she keeps her secrets. And she’s done with all those who get lost in their own world. Bergman’s weariness is compelling, and she plays the heaviest moments of Mary’s arc well.
Mandylor and Vandenberg, longtime Johnson collaborators, play with their usual imagery for a fun effect. Mandylor’s Maitland has a bit of the bruised decency he brought to Sue in the Debt collector movies and a lot of the cruelty he displayed as The mercenaryis the villain, but he gives Maitland a new and disturbing apathy and amorality. There is a coldness in man that makes him intriguing.
Likewise, Vandeberg (acting mostly in French) makes George a sympathetic figure even though he has blinders on. He is indecisive and (perhaps literally) haunted by the weight of his inactions and tries to overcompensate for catastrophic results he cannot cope with. George is classically pathetic, and Vandenberg’s portrayal of this is very impressive.
Von Brückner is sort of twisted among the movie Nazis and Bernhardt plays him wonderfully.
Both men do a solid job, but the star of Hell has no furyThe set of is by far Bernhardt. It makes Von Brückner a man sincerely in love with Mary, but blithely, with a sickening apathy for everything else. He wants what he wants, and therefore he should have it. Stealing gold from superiors is a bit scary because they are his superiors. But the atrocities that caused the Nazis to loot? What do they matter? What matters is that he and Mary will live the life he thinks he deserves. His romance is all that matters to him.
No one is quite on the same side in Hell has no fury. It is, sometimes, very dark – a tale of greed and wounds and the more seedy side of humanity in the midst of war, where the film’s most moral person (and its only black character, played by Josef Cannon) is one of the first to die. But throughout this gloom and throughout the excellent climax (which features a piece of choreography that just might rival Wild dogis the most glorious and notoriously zoned moment) Johnson and the whole keep an eye on the authentic, on the real.
The result? A solid stretch from one of the great action directors working today, one that’s a testament to the thrill you find in creatives pushing themselves to try something new. It may not match revenge Where Collection agents, corn Hell has no furyit’s a good movie. It’s worth checking out, but keep its sadness in mind.
Hell has no fury opens in theaters today and hits digital November 9.