Story: Gabriel (Michael Rooker) is a seasoned veteran of organized crime and in a field where few grow old, he not only survives, but remains active at a high level. Even so, the lifestyle has taken a toll on him and he grows weary, though the assignments don’t slow down. He has worked for crime boss Arnold (Bruce Willis) for a long time and when things take an unexpected turn, Gabriel is always the person Arnold wants taking point. This proves to be the case when Gabriel is tasked to work with Carlos (Vadhir Derbez), who needs help to clean up a mess after a hit on one of Arnold’s rivals was witnessed by two law enforcement officials. Now Arnold has given the two a short window to neutralize the threat, but is Gabriel still up for this kind of dangerous, high level task?
Entertainment Value: White Elephant has some interesting talent involved, from Jesse V. Johnson, one of the best active action directors to a cast that includes Bruce Willis, Michael Rooker, and John Malkovich, so I hoped this would be a cut above the usual direct to video action fare. As it turns out, it is indeed a cut above and while it has some issues, it piles on the action scenes and is not shy about relentless violence once the action kicks in. While some movies opt for little to no blood in shootouts, White Elephant takes a nastier, more visceral approach and includes horror movie levels of blood, including some memorable moments of gore. Some of the blood is digital, but a good amount is practical effects and I wish more films would follow suit, it adds so much impact to the violence. The bodies stack up and the crimson flows like wine, so if you’ve been looking for an action movie that embraces the squib life, White Elephant is just the picture. The movie loses steam when the action slows however, as the story is rather forgettable, but I have to think most viewers are here for the action or to see Bruce Willis, so I imagine this is a forgivable sin for most. I had fun with White Elephant and if you like an old school approach to action, give it a look.
This one has an interesting cast and most likely, a good portion of the viewers will be brought in by Bruce Willis, who is featured heavily in the promotional materials. Willis has a smaller role, as is often the case at this stage of his career, but he does have a decent amount of screen time and he is central to the story, so there’s that. I was glad to see Willis have a brief return to being an action hero, as he unleashes some vengeance in a brunch sequence. In a blood soaked white suit, Willis uses a gun to mow down his rivals and while the scene isn’t an action classic, it was still nice to see Willis in that mode. The actual lead here is Michael Rooker and as always, he is able to elevate his role and deliver a terrific, gritty performance that makes the most of the limited material. He plays the grizzled enforcer well and is always serious and believable, which enhances the movie a lot. Rooker is able to carry the film with ease and more than holds his own in terms of action scenes, so he was a wise choice. The cast also includes John Malkovich, Olga Kurylenko, and Vadhir Derbez.
The Disc: White Elephant is on Blu-ray from RLJE Films, who have given us a gorgeous, super sharp visual presentation. The image is crystal clear and shows so much detail, which of course, makes the shootouts even more visceral to watch. I can’t imagine the movie looking much better than this, a fantastic visual effort from RLJE Films. No extras.