A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that I Am Wrath is a thriller about a former mercenary (John Travolta) who goes on a revenge-fueled bender after his wife is killed under suspicious circumstances. The movie is quite violent, with vigilante murders and shoot-outs. Most people die from gunshot wounds, but others are killed with knives or in an explosion. A few characters are badly injured but survive, and a child is taken hostage at gunpoint. Strong language includes "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," "a--hole," etc., and there are a few scenes of strippers dancing -- but the scenes are so dark that viewers will see more random shots of skin or silhouettes than nakedness. Villains are portrayed stereotypically, as menacing people of color with big guns, tattoos, and seedy hangouts. In fact, there's very little to redeem any of the characters, all of whom seem to operate outside the law, and the only take-aways are that violence begets violence, and vigilantism rarely ends well.
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What's the story?
I AM WRATH is a revenge thriller starring John Travolta as Stanley, a Ohio family man who witnesses the brutal murder of his wife (Rebecca DeMornay) after a mugging turns fatal. But even after positively identifying the trigger man, the detectives set the killer loose, suspiciously claiming that Stanley is an unreliable witness. At this point, Stanley, angry and confused, is revealed to be a retired Black Ops assassin. He breaks open his wall and takes out a presumably long-buried stash of weapons. With a little bit of help from his former fellow mercenary, Dennis (Christopher Meloni), Stan finds out how to get to the men who killed his wife, and -- after executing a whole lot of people -- it becomes clear that the murder was much more than a random act of violence.
Is it any good?
This Taken copycat is nearly unwatchable, despite -- or perhaps because of -- Travolta's commitment to playing a vengeful husband who will kill anyone who knows anything about his wife's murder. There's a lot going on with the plot, which tries to be a political conspiracy thriller in addition to a grieving-husband-with-a-secret-past revenge story. On top of that, the bits with Meloni smack of odd-couple buddy comedy, even though none of these elements quite work.
But what makes the whole thing eye-rollingly awful is its utter predictability. The villains are nearly all so stereotypical (menacing people of color with big guns, tattoos, and seedy hangouts) that you have to wonder whether the filmmakers are purposely promoting a pro-gun, pro-vigilante (as long as said vigilante is white) agenda. If it weren't for Dennis/Meloni, there would be zero humor, and the little he brings falls flat, given the horrific circumstances. There's no real emotional connection to Stanley's love for his wife, save for a lame montage of them together. With so little invested in Stanley, it's hard to care about him, and audiences will wish the movie had been about Dennis instead.
Talk to your kids about ...
Discuss the theme of revenge and how it's used in the movie. Why do you think so many thrillers are about avenging a loved one's death? How does it usually work out?
Some have called the movie's depiction of the villains stereotypical; do you agree? If so, what are the stereotypes, and how do they affect the plot?
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