The Gardener (2021)


The Gardener
(2021)- * * *

Directed by: Scott Chambers 

Starring: Robert Bronzi, Jake Watkins, Sarah Cohen, and Gary Daniels

Peter Juhasz (Bronzi) is a kindly gardener working for a rather well-off family in the UK. While tending to the grounds and his greenhouse, he isn't afraid to take some time out and impart life lessons to the two teenage (?) kids, Justin (Watkins) and Hannah (Cohen). The peace of their countryside estate is shattered when a gang of criminal baddies led by the sinister Volker (Daniels) invades the home. They're looking for a hard drive of information. In the process of these evil goings-on, Juhasz gets wise to their scheme, and he reverts back to his former military training. He then proceeds to rescue the family by taking on the baddies one by one. But, naturally, he will have to face off mano-a-mano with Volker. Will Juhasz take out the trash...er...leaf bags?

Hey, I guess if Jason Statham can be The Beekeeper, or The Transporter, and Aaron Eckhart can be The Bricklayer, then why can't Robert Bronzi be The Gardener? The danger with all this is that if current trends continue, then action movies will become no better than Adam Sandler or Rob Schneider films - i.e., the movie title is almost always their job (or their character's name). Perhaps calling this film "Peter Juhasz" didn't have the snappy ring to it that the filmmakers probably wanted. Although if they did do that, the movie would probably do gangbusters in Hungary. Juhasz is a vegetarian and at one point he asks for a nice vegetarian goulash. This might be the first film we've ever seen where the word "goulash" is said, much less requested by the main character.

The good news in all this is that Robert Bronzi still bears an uncanny and, frankly, alarming resemblance to Charles Bronson. That's a relief. Thankfully, he has not changed. The last time we saw him was Death Kiss (2018), and, wouldn't ya just know it, he looked a lot like Bronson then too. As Benjamin Franklin once said, there are three sure things in life: death, taxes, and Robert Bronzi's face. Exact quote.

While the first half or so of the film is largely actionless, we applaud the makers of The Gardener for actually attempting to give us character development. You have to set up the scene before you can knock it down. In that sense, the relatively slow pace is a throwback to the 70's drive-in films of yore. Once Bronzi/Juhasz snaps into his war footing, things do pick up rather well. We liked how he used his gardening tools to fight the baddies (i.e. a lawnmower, shears, some sort of raking hoe, etc.) Live by the garden, die by the garden.

It's like a lower-budget version of the end of The Equalizer (2014) - and if the aforementioned Beekeeper (2024), and The Equalizer can go to the theater, maybe Bronzi will too one day? Well, we can dream. However, this time around we get a more serious Bronzi. The tone is not as silly as you might think.

As far as fan favorite Gary Daniels, it's very safe to say that he's still "got it". He spends a good chunk of the movie shirtless and beating up his own crew. His character of Volker (which just sounds evil) really enjoys snapping people's necks. He even goes out of his way to snap some necks when he doesn't even have to. Some people like popping bubble wrap, some like snapping necks. Comme ci, comme ca. Not only did we like seeing an older, more grizzled Daniels, it was nice to see him in a rare baddie role.

However, not everything here is coming up roses. The night scenes are very dark and hard to see. At a certain point, things become very repetitive, especially in the dialogue department. For example, one of the baddies, while not wearing a mask like his compatriots do, yells over and over that "They saw my face!!" Whose fault is that, moron? The family was tied up. They didn't do anything to your mask. This same guy continually threatens, "I'm gonna kill 'em!!" or some variation thereof. Maybe the point was to really make the audience want Bronzi to come in and rake the guy to death or some such thing. But we already want that, so all the repetition isn't necessary, by definition.

All that being said, the slasheresque one-by-one killing by different and relatively creative ways was a plus, which adds to the "throwback" feel of the film, as does the quest by the baddies for "The Drive", which apparently is the 21st Century MacGuffin - it once was the ledger, then the tape, then the disc, now it's the drive.

Despite its evident (painfully, at times) low budget, The Gardener does end up delivering what you want. While far from perfect, we should all be thankful that Robert Bronzi exists. And that movies are being made, however flawed, that feature him as the main star. We really are living in extraordinary times.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

1 comment:

Roger Renman said...

Bronzi actually did play theaters in Finland with Escape From Death Block 13, which is his best movie so far.