Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Well… that was a holy mess. But this movie ‘Setup’ is a mess of a movie that we are happy with for a number of reasons, none of these reasons having anything to do with me being entertained. We’re happy with ‘Setup’ because it was shot right here in Detroit… actually G-Rap standing in for Detroit… but still, and it might be one of the last movies we’ll see from the state since the governor restricted the filmmaking tax rebates. We’re happy because we heard Ryan Phillippe say ‘Let’s Bounce’ in this movie which automatically makes him a thug. And mostly we’re happy because Bruce Willis is in this Straight to DVD movie and as a lot of you know I have a Straight to DVD TV show and when my show gets around to doing ‘Setup’, Bruce Willis will be the biggest star ever to have fallen to my show. It’s just a matter of time before Will Smith, Tom Cruise and Julia Roberts show up as well. This makes me happy.

Say hello to Vincent (Phillippe) the hot head, Sonny (Curtis Jackson) the loyal dude and Dave (Brett Granstaff), the young man who just loves his new wife to death, has just brought a house and looks to have a bright future ahead of him. Can you say ‘Dead Meat’? Of course you can. In an egregious narrative oversight, they forgot to make this woman pregnant. Anyway, these three young men are criminals of some kind, I guess, and are in the process of stealing five million in diamonds during a daring daylight heist of some Iranian dude. This will introduce one unique element into this film, the Iranian Gangster.

Unfortunately when it comes time to make the diamonds for cash exchange, all setup by Vincent, he shoots his two friends… one to death. In case you have some doubts, the one that got shot to death wasn’t Fiddy. So Sonny gets himself all patched up and proceeds to go about the business of finding his long time friend Vincent and killing him. But he runs into polite Iranian Gangster Mr. Roth (Shaun Taub) who wants his diamonds back and will kill Sonny if he doesn’t find Vincent and return them. Got that?

Next, Sonny gets some intel that Vincent hangs out with these mobsters, so Sonny jacks them. I don’t know why, but that’s what he does. That’s puts Sonny out of favor with big time mob boss creatively called Mr. Biggs (Willis). So in exchange for not killing

Sonny, Mister Biggs wants Sonny to rob some Russian Mobsters of two million dollars of his cash. Got it? This heist, having nothing to do with the previous heist, goes well but the guy that Mr. Biggs sent along to keep an eye on Sonny, played by Randy Coutre, has something bad happen to him and now Sonny is running from Mr. Biggs. That is before Sonny and Mr. Biggs team up to do some stuff.

So while Sonny is dealing with all of this, Vincent, when he isn’t ‘bouncing’, is trying to keep his imprisoned old man (James Remar) out of genpop where he would otherwise be quickly shanked by the brothers for his perceived crimes against the brotherhood. Apparently this is why Vincent needed five million dollars. I guess. Are you following all of this? Because if you are, you’re doing better than I was.

Then a bunch of people are pointing their guns at each other and a shootout occurs. Something like that.

Let’s clarify one thing first, just because Bruce Willis is in a Straight to DVD movie doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with Bruce Willis’ superstar career, just that the movie business has drastically changed with the divide between theatrical and home entertainment becoming incredibly blurry. That’s all that is, and I’m sure he still got paid very well for his glorified cameo in this awful movie.

But why is ‘Setup’, directed by noted stuntman Mike Gunther, not very good when it really didn’t need to be? Grand Rapids was looking nice and gritty, there was a rock solid cast at the director’s disposal, and there’s guns and shooting and car chases and explosions and all kinds of stuff that makes a movie watchable. Plus there are a lot of scenes in this movie, when examined individually, that are actually pretty good. James Remar in prison yelling racial slurs… damn good stuff. Bruce Willis having fun torturing Russian Mobsters or just reading stock lines… damn good stuff. Jenna Dewan-Tatum getting beat up by a very polite Iranian Mobster… very entertaining.

But while recognizing that the story itself is fairly formulaic, and lacking in originality, but also recognizing that we can fully deal with that limitation for the most part, what ‘Setup’ was in desperate need of was a little focus. Iranian mobsters, Italian mobsters, Russian mobsters, prison gangs, street gangs, family drama, fancy graphics unnecessarily telling us every character name, and whatever else you can think of throwing into a formulaic crime movie… a lot of which has almost nothing to do with the original crime… and what we have here is a movie that is virtually all over the freaking place. I know we can’t get rid of Bruce Willis in this movie, nor would we want to, because Bruce on the cover brings much needed eyeballs, but if you cut Mr. Big (seriously?) out of this movie, you probably won’t miss Mr. Big. I would even guess that Bruce Willis was reverse engineered into this movie, meaning the script was done, the movie was cast, then word came down that Bruce would do it, so they tacked on a brand new role just for Bruce. There wasn’t a lot of logic or reason behind anything Sonny, or anyone for that matter did in this movie, and the bulk of the narrative seemed to winging it as it was going along, which means it was largely incoherent, and thus we have what we are forced to label one big mess of a movie.

But don’t let this less than glowing treatise from someone who doesn’t really matter stop you Curtis. You keep making them, I’ll keep watching them. At least Val Kilmer wasn’t in this one.

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