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Movie Review: ‘Lights Out’ | Moviefone

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Scott Adkins as “Don ‘The Reaper’ Richter,” Frank Grillo as “Michael ‘Duffy’ Duffield” and Mekhi Phifer as “Max Bomer” in the action/thriller, 'Lights Out,' a Quiver Distribution release.

(L to R) Scott Adkins as “Don ‘The Reaper’ Richter,” Frank Grillo as “Michael ‘Duffy’ Duffield” and Mekhi Phifer as “Max Bomer” in the action/thriller, ‘Lights Out,’ a Quiver Distribution release. Photo courtesy of Quiver Distribution.

In theaters, On Digital, and On Demand on Friday, February 16th ‘Lights Out’ is the latest movie from prolific action director Christian Sesma, who has rounded up a solid cast –– some of them repeating from his previous work –– for the story of a man looking to atone for his violent past by… punching people?

Suffice to say, given that Frank Grillo is starring, there is certainly a lot of that.

Does ‘Lights Out’ strike fast?

Dermot Mulroney as “Sage Parker” in the action/thriller, 'Lights Out,' a Quiver Distribution release.

Dermot Mulroney as “Sage Parker” in the action/thriller, ‘Lights Out,’ a Quiver Distribution release. Photo courtesy of Quiver Distribution.

‘Lights Out’ is a superb examination of past trauma, family issues and is loaded with memorable scenes. Unfortunately, we’d only be able to say that if we were talking about David F. Sandberg’s impressive feature directorial debut, which came out in 2016 and launched a successful career in horror and beyond for him.

Instead, this new movie from Christian Sesma has very little to recommend it.

Script and Direction

Frank Grillo as “Michael ‘Duffy’ Duffield” and Mekhi Phifer as “Max Bomer” in the action/thriller, 'Lights Out,' a Quiver Distribution release.

(L to R) Frank Grillo as “Michael ‘Duffy’ Duffield” and Mekhi Phifer as “Max Bomer” in the action/thriller, ‘Lights Out,’ a Quiver Distribution release. Photo courtesy of Quiver Distribution.

Given how much of ‘Lights Out’ feels like it was derived from other (honestly better) movies, it’s a surprise to learn that it took two writers –– Chad Law and Garry Charles, with additional writing from Brandon Burrows –– to come up with the basic concept. Because it is indeed a very basic concept that doesn’t really develop all that much.

We’ve seen the story of a drifter who has a difficult past. We’ve seen underground fight clubs (they became something of a trope for TV series in the late 1990s and early 2000s). The story of a criminal who needs to go straight to help his family is nothing new. There are any number of movies about veterans who make tough decisions on the big screen. And don’t get us started on crooked cops.

This story doesn’t do any of them justice. It’s as if the writers compiled a pack of cliches and strung them together in place of a story.

Jaime King as “Detective Ellen Ridgeway” in the action/thriller, 'Lights Out,' a Quiver Distribution release.

Jaime King as “Detective Ellen Ridgeway” in the action/thriller, ‘Lights Out,’ a Quiver Distribution release. Photo courtesy of Quiver Distribution.

As for Sesma’s directorial style, the self-taught filmmaker does what he can with the screenplay, but there are moments that simply ring hollow. Some of the characters are completely underused (pity poor Jaime King, who barely has anything do other than scowl) and the whole thing is shot in a less-than-compelling style.

And for someone with a hefty back catalogue that frequently finds creative ways to create action with lower budgets, here the set pieces are embarrassingly amateurish, even with the likes of Frank Grillo and Scott Adkins in the cast (we really can’t blame that duo, who have appeared in the likes of Marvel and ‘John Wick’ movies for what transpires here).

Performances

Mekhi Phifer as “Max Bomer” and Frank Grillo as “Michael ‘Duffy’ Duffield” in the action/thriller, 'Lights Out,' a Quiver Distribution release.

(L to R) Mekhi Phifer as “Max Bomer” and Frank Grillo as “Michael ‘Duffy’ Duffield” in the action/thriller, ‘Lights Out,’ a Quiver Distribution release. Photo courtesy of Quiver Distribution.

Frank Grillo plays Michael ‘Duffy’ Duffield, whose traumatic time in the military overseas launches the film. But even he can’t overcome the less than memorable character he’s saddled with here. Grillo can certainly handle himself in the fight scenes, and knows how to handle weapons convincingly, but the drama lets him down severely, mealy-mouthed sentiments clashing with tough nut proclamations.

Mekhi Pfifer, as Max, has a little more to do, since he’s juggling his criminal ties with concerns about his sister and niece, but even on that front, it comes across as a well-trodden story with nothing new to offer –– the sister has the dodgy ex, the family is put under threat when Max tries to go straight. You’ve seen it done better many times before.

Scott Adkins as “Don ‘The Reaper’ Richter” in the action/thriller, 'Light Out,' a Quiver Distribution release.

Scott Adkins as “Don ‘The Reaper’ Richter” in the action/thriller, ‘Light Out,’ a Quiver Distribution release. Photo courtesy of Quiver Distribution.

Scott Adkins, meanwhile, has an embarrassingly tiny role as an old friend of Duffy’s who is drafted in near the end to help with… Well, that would be a spoiler, but given Adkins’ action resume and martial arts experience, you can well imagine. But he’s so badly served here that you wonder why he agreed beyond a favor to Sesma.

Outside of the main pair, everyone else is mostly left floundering in underwritten roles. Dermot Mulroney probably comes off best as crooked cop Sage Parker, while Jaime King, as previously mentioned, has so little to do that she could have sent her stand-in to perform the role instead. The actors do what they can, but the film offers them little.

Final Thoughts

Mekhi Phifer as “Max Bomer” and Frank Grillo as “Michael ‘Duffy’ Duffield” in the action/thriller, 'Lights Out,' a Quiver Distribution release.

(L to R) Mekhi Phifer as “Max Bomer” and Frank Grillo as “Michael ‘Duffy’ Duffield” in the action/thriller, ‘Lights Out,’ a Quiver Distribution release. Photo courtesy of Quiver Distribution.

‘Lights Out’ is not a movie we can truly recommend unless you’re a Christian Sesma completist (and this is far from his best effort), or you have a low bar to hurdle when it comes to action movies.

There are far better examples of the genre you could be using your precious time to check out. If you’re a big Frank Grillo fan, there are lots of other movies to choose from in his own considerable cinematic resume.

‘Lights Out’ receives 4 out of 10 stars.

“They started the wrong fight.”

R1 hr 30 minFeb 16th, 2024

Showtimes & Tickets

In Lights Out, a homeless veteran, Michael “Duffy” Duffield (Grillo), meets a talkative Ex-Con, Max Bomer (Phifer) who notices Duffy’s skills after he gets… Read the Plot

What is the Plot of ‘Lights Out’?

A drifting ex-soldier (Frank Grillo) turns underground fighter with the help of a just released ex-con (Mekhi Phifer), pitting them both against corrupt cops (Jamie King) and hired killers (Dermot Mulroney) gunning for them and all those they care about.

Who is in the Cast of ‘Lights Out’?

Jaime King as “Detective Ellen Ridgeway” in the action/thriller, 'Lights Out,' a Quiver Distribution release.

Jaime King as “Detective Ellen Ridgeway” in the action/thriller, ‘Lights Out,’ a Quiver Distribution release. Photo courtesy of Quiver Distribution.

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