Phoenix (2023)


(2023)- * * *1\2

Directed by: Daniel Zirilli 

Starring: Natalie Eva Marie, Neal McDonough, Bai Ling, Oleg Prudius, Chuck Zito, Jonathan Camp, and Randy Couture

Fiona Grant (Marie) is a very tough army Sergeant, teaching hand-to-hand combat in Afghanistan. When General Shackleton (McDonough) informs her that her father Everett (Couture) was found dead, he all but forces her to take a leave of absence, such is her dedication to the military. So Fiona, who is nicknamed "Phoenix" for reasons that become apparent later, returns to her hometown of Miami and begins her quest for justice and answers.

After her first order of business, dyeing her hair her trademark pink, she is then ready to take on the gang of Russian mobster Maxim Vasiliiv (Prudius), which includes Scavenger (Ling), among others. This syndicate of baddies is creatively named The Syndicate. Shackleton offers to help Fiona even though he's still back in Afghanistan. But Phoenix has local help: family friend Bullet (Zito) joins the fray, and her father's former bodyguard Artemis (Camp) is there too. Obviously it all comes down to the final fight between Fiona and Maxim...will this PHOENIX rise again?

Here's a pro tip before starting to watch Phoenix: just glue your face to your palm, because if you don't, that action will be repeated so often, you may injure your elbow. Or your face. And here's a warning as well: if you're going to watch Phoenix, you HAVE to like stupidity. You really have to enjoy watching stupid things, or you will not get the full benefit of what this film has to offer. Thankfully, we do, and the fun, humor, and charm of Phoenix quickly becomes apparent.

The opening shipping yard fight with Couture (there are a lot of establishing shots of shipping yards, as if that would somehow wow the viewers: "Cool! Look at all those shipping containers! Radical!") is highly ridiculous and has that "dumb" factor that makes the viewer say, "Uhhhh...." That sort of vibe does not let up from there on out, thankfully.

Another wise choice by the filmmakers was having Natalie Eva Marie be the main star and have her carry the film. Her flat affect is so flat, we've seen the EKG's of dead people that were less flat. However, it's important to understand that this is not an insult. We loved her performance and the movie as a whole is highly entertaining, mainly because of her. We hope to see more Marie in the future and we hope she doesn't ever change. You put her together with other master thespians like Bai Ling, Chuck Zito, and Randy Couture, plus English-as-a-second-language co-stars like Prudius, and it's all a 4th of July fireworks show of "bad" acting, non-acting, incomprehensible acting, amateur acting, flat acting, and the like. And we wouldn't want it any other way.

Presumably, director Zirilli was there while all of this was going on. So we as viewers can assume that all of this was what he wanted (?) He's been directing DTV action films for a while now so presumably that's the situation. In any case, it does appear that some time was spent on the fight and action scenes, which is what fans really are there for, which is what Zirilli must have thought. Of course, the hand-to-hand combat scenes are much better executed than the gun-shooting and blow-ups, which feature muzzle flashes, bullet hits, and fire gags that are home-computer level. But, at this point, let's just chuck all that into the mix and have a great time.

It's all wrapped up in a scant 82 minutes, which feels shorter because it's all so entertaining. Then the viewer is treated to the world's slowest end-credits crawl. You really have to see how slow this is to believe it. There's no shame whatsoever in having an 82 minute film. To us, that's a good thing and more movies should be that length. But it does appear the filmmakers were embarrassed by that for some reason. Either that or Tubi forced them to do it.

Joyous stupidity reigns supreme with Phoenix. We say watch it and have a great time.

Comeuppance Review by Ty and Brett

Also check out a write-up from our buddy, DTVC!

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