Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 27, 2020)
Just recently, Bruce Willis starred in an actual A-list movie with other A-list actors. 2019’s Motherless Brooklyn brought a lackluster film, but at least it came with certain level of cinematic credibility absent from most of Willis’s modern fare.
With Trauma Center, though, Willis goes back into his lane. Another in his long line of direct-to-video efforts, Willis plays Lt. Steve Wakes, a cop in Puerto Rico.
When shooters (Texas Battle and Tito Ortiz) kill two police detectives, one witness survives: waitress Madison Taylor (Nicky Whelan). She winds up with a bullet in her thigh but escapes greater damage when police sirens scare away the culprits.
Wakes finds the injured Madison at the hospital – as do the assailants, who turn out to be corrupt cops. Since the bullet that hit Madison can implicate them in the crime, the killers come after her, with only Wakes to protect her.
I often find myself confronted with movies that boast ample potential for excitement, and Trauma falls into that category. Although nothing about it seems likely to innovate, it still feels like a premise with room for tension and thrills.
Alas, I get the feeling the filmmakers figured the basic idea behind Trauma would carry the day. As such, they appeared to invest little effort into niceties like character development and logic.
Hoo boy, does Trauma jettison common sense! Many films require some suspension of disbelief, but to get through this one, the viewer must destroy disbelief.
The movie packs one nonsensical moment after another, each of which provokes little more than eye rolling. These scenes exist to prompt suspense, but they sabotage the drama due to their basic absurdity.
I don’t know if I’ll accuse Willis of entering “Check Cashing Mode” via his performance, but he clearly doesn’t invest his top effort. He yells/blusters through the action beats and looks mopey during character moments. At no point does Willis resemble a credible human being.
Whelan fares better, as she at least shows actual effort, but she can’t do much with the role. While she seems adequate, she never goes farther than that.
It also seems bizarre that the producers cast the nearly 40-year-old Whelan as the sister to a 16-year-old. Not that siblings with such extreme age differences don’t exist, but this seems head-scratching.
In the story, the mother to Madison and teen sister Emily (Catherine Davis) died – and in a cheesy move, her fate made Madison conveniently afraid of hospitals. The story sets up tension between the siblings, as young Emily resents Madison’s attempts to play mommy.
The movie doesn’t need this conflict at all, as the story works just fine if Madison and Emily enjoy a smooth relationship. The plot device makes more sense with a younger Madison, though.
Logic never becomes this flick’s strong suit, so maybe I shouldn’t pick on the choice to hire a much too old lead actor. I can find plenty of blame to go around in this dull, silly thriller.