5-Word 365 #185 – Setup

I realise that sometimes I have to watch bad films. It just comes with the territory; they can’t all be Grabbers. But every once in a while I sit through a movie that almost ruins my love of this art form. Almost.


Don’t bother. Watch something else.

Three friends – Vincent, Sonny and Dave – are planning to rob a man transporting $5 million-worth of uncut diamonds. Imagine Sonny and Dave’s surprise when, instead of giving them their cut of the take, Vincent shoots them both and drives away. Dave dies, Sonny survives, and alliteration is awesome. Sonny them goes on a roaring rampage of revenge to get his and Dave’s share of the robbery and to kill Vincent. Lots of awkward swearing ensues.

I don’t think I can find much to say about this film that would even be vaguely complimentary, so if you don’t mind I’m just going to discuss the various ways in which Setup made me feel unclean. There will be spoilers.

Whoever owns the rights to Donald E. Westlake’s novel The Hunter should sue. Setup is essentially another variation on Point Blank or Payback but without either of those films’ style or wit. The closest director Mike Gunther comes to a stylistic choice is when he gives Bruce Willis and three other minor characters one of those freeze-frame title cards but to tell us their job descriptions, not their names. The facts that, of the four, two of them get also actual character names, one of them is only in one scene, and only one of them is a major character just makes the whole thing seem even more silly. Why these four? Why fucking bother at all?

How the hell can Sonny (played by Curtis “Fiddy” Jackson) say with a straight face “Nobody was supposed to die” after the robbery, just because Ryan Phillipe (as Vincent) shot the man carrying the diamonds? Does he need to be reminded that during the robbery itself, all three of them were firing machine guns indiscriminately from the middle of a busy intersection? If half a dozen other people didn’t die I would be very fucking surprised.

This film has one of the worst examples of Hollywood medicine I can recall. After Sonny is shot by Vincent in the double-cross, he goes to his friendly tattooist who digs the bullet out of his shoulder with tongs, then just sticks a square of gauze over the big gaping hole. No anticoagulants of any kind, nor any attempt to close the wound is forthcoming. And for this one scene, former James Bond villain Will Yun Lee gets his name at the start of the movie. The wonderfully sleazy Jay Karnes (The Shield, Sons Of Anarchy) is in two scenes, but he has to wait to the end to see his name. Lee must have one hell of an agent.

“Just go on without me, I’ll be dead in a minute.” “Bullshit. I can fix you up good as new. Someone get me some gauze!”

Vincent is paying the warden of the prison where his dad is locked up in order to keep the old man in the special block where he won’t be shanked. Why? Is it just because his dad is James Remar? Probably not, but we’re never given a better reason. What did the guy do? Who exactly wants him dead? If we are meant to sympathise with Vincent’s plight then we need to understand it, otherwise it’s just lazy storytelling. Also, if Vincent got the cash for the stones more or less immediately after the heist, why has he still not paid off the warden two weeks later?

Gunther and his co-writer Mike Behrman constantly try to shoehorn these religious redemption undertones into the story, such as in Sonny’s frequent visits to church where he discusses fate and heavan with the priest. His opening narration goes like this:

When I was younger I wanted to be a priest. I was going into the battle to save men’s souls from the evil of the world. But as I got older, I saw the world for what it really was. It wasn’t so much who I was going to save, but what was going to save the world from me.

Wow, he sounds like such a badass, stone killer, doesn’t he? Do you know how many people Sonny kills in the movie? None. Zero. Zip, zilch, nada. He spends the whole time trying to track down Vincent explicitly just to kill him, but when he gets him at the end all he does is pour a can of gasoline over his head and shoots him in the leg. I suspect this is supposed to be an act of mercy, to show that Sonny’s soul can be saved, but it just makes him seem like a poser and frankly, a bit of a pussy.

Finally, for a fairly senior mob muscle guy, Randy Couture’s Petey has the worst gun discipline in history. Actually, make that the worst any-kind-of discipline. The guy is a joke. If you want to see someone self-Marvin, this is the flick for you.

Last one, I swear. Is Bruce actually asleep in the poster?

If you’ve seen the flick as well, feel free to sound off in the comments. Maybe we can get a support group going.


  1. TheBruce · July 4, 2012

    I’m sort of confused as to why Bruce would even show up in these kinds of movies. He was also in CATCH .44 and THE COLD LIGHT OF DAY. On the other hand, he was also in MOONRISE KINGDOM. What the fuck…? The guy hasn’t started down Cuba Gooding Jr. Lane yet… I was going to say he was doing it for the paychecks, but he seems to be in line for some major theatrical releases (all of which, other than maybe LOOPER, look like DTV action shit-flicks).

    • Ryan McNeely · July 4, 2012

      It is a bit weird, yeah. It’s quite an odd part that he plays in this one. He’s the mob boss, but he spends most of scenes complaining about things like the death of print newspapers, or catching up on the baseball scores. He actually seems to be having some fun, though there were times when his salary would have been more than this flick’s total budget.

Go ahead, punk. Make my day.

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