Director Ari Novak’s “Kill Shot” starts off pretty well, as it uses its opening moments to firmly lock in a sense of unease through silence and movement.

A young Afghan girl (Anaya Patel) moves through an illegal drug manufacturing plant. She is given a briefcase full of money. She then walks through a snow-covered terrain where she meets with an armored truck and gives the money to the armed men inside. The men drive away until a burka-clad woman named Dina Diablo (Mara Ohara) appears on the road. She pulls a flamethrower and fires it at the truck. As the men jump out, they are ambushed by Maximus (UFC fighter and actor Bobby Maximus) and his men. They kill their target, take the money, and make plans to rendezvous in Canada. Novak films his opening in an unhurried manner. Letting the tension build, the director grabs his audience and immediately piques our interest through a properly set mood. The success of film as a whole is in question, but it has a few moments that work.

The screenplay (by star Rib Hillis and director Novak) is nothing new. Terrorists search the wilderness for their stolen loot and come up against the hunting guide who stumbled across it. Hillis stars as Jackson, the guide who discovers the briefcase while out with a hunting client (Rachel Cook). Jackson is plagued by a crumbling marriage caused by the death of their young daughter. In an effective flashback sequence that pays homage to George Miller’s 1979 classic “Mad Max”, we see how his daughter died; hit by a speeding driver in the street in front of the family’s happy suburban home.

When he finds the money and the baddies get close, Jackson is forced to keep himself and his companion alive, trudging through the wilderness and using his arsenal of survival skills. Make no mistake, this hunting guide has serious skills with a gun. This is the type of role that would be played by Michael Dudikoff for Cannon Films, or Steven Seagal when he made wide-release studio pictures. The most obvious comparison (both in lead character and plot) would be Sylvester Stallone in Renny Harlin’s “Cliffhanger”, in how the guide who knows the terrain fights the villains in open country.

As the film gets going and the bad guys attack, “Kill Shot” becomes unstable. The dialogue is insipid and no one will mistake any member of the cast as followers of The Method. Lines such as “You Lizard brained bitch!” and “I need pants!” (Including the exploitative situation that warrants it) are ridiculous and unnecessary. The film is peppered with out of place sexual innuendos that have no business here.

The action moments are fairly well handled. Director Novak thankfully stays away from the shaky-cam style that plagues 99 percent of today’s thrillers. The gunfight choreography is tight, bringing a rapid fire urgency to the battles. A’la Tom Cruise, Hillis does most of his own stunts, including a breathtaking real climb on an ice covered mountainside. Nick Bohun’s John Carpenter-inspired score is a small asset. With the exception of an awful modern country song that plays over a couple of scenes, the synth-driven score motors the film along, giving it a bit of the 80s/90s action thriller vibe the filmmakers are searching for.

By the time we get to the big reveal of the true villain (a “twist” we see coming miles away), the film stumbles into more than a few eye rolling moments. The manner in which Jackson dispenses of one major baddie after almost being tortured is sloppy in execution and doesn’t pack the intended visceral punch. In the film’s finale, Jackson (and his client) go hand to hand with the only two hooligans left. The fight is solid, but ends much too soon. I detest the phrase, but “Kill Shot” is a somewhat decent “time waster”. A few good action scenes, some solid stunt work, and a final twist that is no surprise (but still fun) make Novak’s formulaic film watchable, but nothing beyond a one-off.


Kill Shot

Written by Rib Hillis & Ari Novak

Directed by Ari Novak

Starring Rib Hillis, Rachel Cook, Mara Ohara, Xian Mikol, Bobby Maximus

R, 93 Minutes, Pixium Film Group/Speed Merchant Productions