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Once Upon a Time in Venice                 review by Bobby Blakey

Over the years Bruce Willis has been doing mostly straight to home release features, but still offering some interesting projects from time to time. His latest Once Upon A Time in Venice looks to be trying to take it back to Willis in the lead with a great supporting cast including John Goodman, Thomas Middleditch, Famke Janssen and Jason Mamoa, but could it be a return to form for the action star or will it be a dog not worth tracking down?

Once Upon A Time in Venice follows Steve Ford, a down but not out L.A based Private Investigator whose professional and personal worlds collide after his loving pet Buddy is stolen by a notorious gang. A series of crazy circumstances find him doing the gang's bidding, while being chased by two vengeful Samoan brothers, a loan shark's goons, and a few other shady characters. They say a dog is a man's best friend, and Steve shows how far a man will go to be reunited with him. Going into this film I tried to keep my expectations low just based on a lot of the straight to home entertainment releases we have gotten from Willis, but thankfully while not perfect this one still offers up a bit more. The story is similar to John Wick in that the catalyst to everything revolves around the taking of a dog, but this is far from a hardcore action flick. Instead it is more of a dark comedy that offers up a more familiar type of character for Willis to play.   

Throughout his early action films Willis tended to play the down and out detective types and this is the exact role he takes on here without the badass side to him. Instead he is smart and clever, but still a bit bumbling in his own right. The supporting cast are all good with the real standout being the always awesome John Goodman stealing pretty much every scene he is in. I love Jason Mamoa and while it is entertaining to see him in a role like this it also felt a bit strange at times, but that might have been part of the charm. The biggest issue with the film is that it never really knew what kind of film it wanted to be. There are elements of drama, comedy and action but none are fully cemented to make it all that cohesive. There are some fun moments here, but also a missed opportunity to make a great little action comedy had they organized the script a bit more.

While this film is far from perfect it does have a bit of old school charm that showcases some hint of the old school Willis and with his turn in the new Death Wish in the near future I hope this is the stepping stone back to his past glory. Fans of Willis or anyone else in the cast may have some fun with the film so give it a shot and decide for yourself. In addition to the film this film also offers a behind the scenes featurette taking your further behind bringing this film to life. Grab your copy of Once Upon A Time in Venice when it hits Blu-ray and DVD on August 15th from RLJ Entertainment.

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