I couldn’t give a full review of Java Heat last week because the studio didn’t want one till the film’s opening week. I don’t really understand why, since the film had been reviewed elsewhere, and since my basic take on Java Heat hasn’t changed. It’s still a confused, if stylish, action film that comes under the heading of not bad, but nothing all that special. More words aren’t really going to alter that—even though I can give more details. What we have is a pretty basic action picture with a more than usually convoluted script, an agreeably exotic locale, a kind of interesting odd-couple-buddy-team and a sweaty Mickey Rourke as a particularly depraved villain — all thrown together by filmmaker Conor Allyn, who really took Brian De Palma’s 1970s use of split-screen to heart. The results are an OK actioner that sounds more interesting in pieces than it turns out to be as a whole (and which I’m not sure is likely to find much of an audience). I’m not even sure just who its audience is, which may be the most interesting thing about it.
The film stars Kellan Lutz — a likable enough muscle-bound sort, whose greatest fame comes from playing a member of the Cullen vampire clan in the Twilight movies. I have to note that he must not have been one of the more memorable family members because I don’t remember him in those films — and I’ve had the misfortune of seeing them all. There’s even a gag in Java Heat about Twilight where someone in a bazaar tries to sell Lutz’s character a bootleg copy of one of the movies. I am not, however, clear on just where the crossover appeal is between Twilight and an R-rated action movie. (I have seen evidence of some interest in seeing Mr. Lutz and his large and sinewy muscles — and the film does indeed offer this, though mostly from the back.) Lutz plays a man of some mystery who presents himself as an exchange student, a CIA agent and, finally, as a rogue Marine on some kind of Semper Fi revenge mission. (I believe this last is his real incarnation, but I’m not swearing to it.)
He ends up getting involved with a Muslim police detective (Ario Bayu) — who likes him, but doesn’t trust or approve of him — in an attempt to rescue a supposedly dead Sultana and overthrow some terrorists who are somehow (I never quite got this) involved with a sleazy crime boss named Malik (Rourke). Malik — who seems to have a thing for underage boys — is so vile that even the terrorists don’t like him (“You corrupt everything you touch,” one tells him). This isn’t going to go down as one of Rourke’s more memorable performances (and it’s low-rent to the degree that I’d swear he’s wearing that seersucker suit from Angel Heart at one point). He is, however, undeniably villainous and slimy, which is probably all he signed on to be. In any case, the action is effective, the characters are OK and the direction is pretty stylish. Great? No — probably not even quite good — but it’s solidly OK. Rated R for violence throughout, language and sexual references.
Starts Friday at Carolina Cinemas