This review is of the edited TV-14 version of the film. All thoughts below should be addressed as such as a review of the unedited version would be more negative.
It’s time for a CIA type revenge thriller. Revenge films can always be tough since naturally the lead is getting revenge for something which means a tragic backstory. Some films take this as far as they can. What’s the saddest thing that can happen? Usually it involves family dying, sometimes it’s the film dying (By having the dog die) but there are many different versions. The film has to be careful not to make the scene too tragic/mean spirited or the movie is over before it has begun while still trying to make the scene reasonably emotional. It’s a tight rope act.
Richard used to work for the CIA, but lately he has a hard time murdering people. He wants out and decides to just walk away. Naturally you can’t just walk away from a job like this but he’s the best in the business so it’s reasonably easy to dodge his former subordinates. He finds himself in a small town that has been taken over by corrupt cops and thugs. They want to commit terrorist acts against the country and see Richard as a threat. They decide to destroy him and his newfound friends to teach the guy a lesson. Richard will have to either stop the enemies or avenge his friends.
This film has that gritty 80s vibe to it from the start. You never really feel like Richard’s friends have a shot here. They all mean well and are pretty nice but that’s exactly why they seem expendable. You have the kid who looks up to Richard, her father who refuses to sell his land to the villains (uh oh) and a CIA agent who has arrived to arrest Richard but decides to team up with him instead. Death flags will pop up for all 3 and the real question is who will live past this ordeal. Also since the cops are involved and corrupt this can lead to the frustrating scenario where they can and will arrest Richard for anything just so they can take his guns. They can even just handcuff him so the villains can beat him up without a fight.
When the cops are in on it the hero is put in a very bad spot. It’s pretty hard to overcome this because after a point the only option is to take down the cops and the villains which will lead you to becoming a fugitive across the country. It’s a tough spot for sure. The film does a good job of painting a bleak picture for Richard. It’s certainly a thriller with high stakes. I can’t say that Richard does a bad job against them as he reasonably does all he could, but I think he begins to falter with the romance angle in general and some of his decision making skills. He may not have had to go for revenge if he had planned things out better.
The romance angle here is definitely very weak though. The CIA agent coming over just to be swayed by Richard was certainly a bit much. There goes her professionalism. I can understand her not wanting to listen to the corrupt order to murder Malone, but there’s a fine line between that and getting together with him. Then the film also has the kid start to like Richard which makes for a very tricky plot. Especially since Richard is not nearly as firm as he should have been in declining her. He’s at least 30 years older than her, maybe more so. It was just a lousy plot. The film should have absolutely skipped the romance plots in this film and that would have been a really good idea. It’s all pretty unnecessary.
Naturally the film can also be a bit gritty. I wouldn’t say that it ever becomes over the top violent or anything but it’s definitely got that 80s vibe to it. The deaths can be pretty gruesome even if they aren’t all on screen. It’s basically what you would expect from the premise. Unfortunately the CIA part of it doesn’t get as much screen time as I would have liked. It would have been nice to see the CIA step in and start fighting with the villains. After all, while they want to cover all of this up you’d think that they would also be happy to take care of the local mob and cops right? Instead they also appear to be just as corrupt as the villains. The film tries to make it crystal clear that only Malone and the two people he’s living with can be trusted.
Overall, Malone isn’t a film that I would particularly recommend. It feels a lot like some of the wild west films like Hang em High and other such titles with the tough main character who shows up to take down the villains but simply isn’t nearly as engaging as those were. The main character isn’t quite as good and while the villains were reasonable I guess they don’t do anything to save the film. It’s not a very pleasant film either. Naturally it’s fun to see Malone go in and take down the villains, but by the time he does it feels like an empty victory.