‘Acceleration’: Film Review

Natalie Burn plays a getaway driver desperately trying to fulfill a series of dangeous assignments in order to free her kidnapped son in ‘Acceleration,’ an action thriller also featuring Sean Patrick Flanery and Dolph Lundgren.

You can usually tell when an actor is having a good time. Especially when they’re playing villains, which tends to bring out the hamminess in even the most restrained performers. In Acceleration, the new action film directed by Michael Merino and Daniel Zirilli, Sean Patrick Flanery clearly seems to be having a good time, an even better time than when he was starring in George Lucas’ The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles on television. Playing Kane, a flamboyant crime boss who lives up to his name by using a walking stick, Flanery chews the scenery with gusto, as if auditioning for the next Quentin Tarantino movie. He’s the most enjoyable element in what otherwise proves a flimsy vehicle for its producer/star Natalie Burn.

Burn, who proved her action movie chops in The Expendables 3, plays the central role of getaway driver Rhona, who is first seen engaging in a frenzied shootout. The scene is merely a prelude of what’s to come, as the timeline flashes back to eight hours earlier and Rhona delivers the sort of hard-boiled narration that lets us know exactly what we’re in for. “In this business, there is no room for mistakes,” she portentously informs us.

The Bottom Line

You’ll feel the Burn.

RELEASE DATE Nov 08, 2019

Set during the course of one very long night, the story involves Rhona’s efforts to fulfill a series of dangerous and sometimes lethal assignments given to her by yet another crime boss, Vladik (Dolph Lundgren, going through the not-so-strenuous motions). Vladik, with whom Rhona clearly has a history, has provided ample motivation for his former employee: He’s keeping her tween son hostage, refusing to even let her talk to him until she completes her tasks.

During the course of the night, Rhona encounters a variety of very shady characters, many of them quite physically imposing, especially the ones played by former UFC champion Chuck Liddell and mixed martial artist Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. But the most sheerly entertaining villain proves to be Kane, who at one point delivers a rhapsodic, metaphor-laden monologue about the glories of lemon meringue pie. He’s the sort of bad guy who is mostly concerned about the mess when one of his hapless victims shoots himself in the head during a forced game of Russian roulette. “Is that blood on my pool table?” he angrily asks his minions.

Other episodes depict Rhona’s charged encounters with a variety of unsavory characters. One involves a deceptively friendly criminal (played in uncharacteristically laid-back fashion by genre mainstay Danny Trejo). Another finds Rhona confronting a white slaver (Al Sapienza, oozing sleaze) who, after subduing her, makes sure to have her stripped to her underwear before tying her up. Because this is a film that knows its target audience.

Burn sells her character’s lethal expertise in highly effective fashion, displaying a fierce, lithe physicality and an air of supreme confidence while shooting guns in two-handed fashion. The actress, who has a background in ballet, is particularly graceful in her movements, at one point executing a perfect somersault before shooting someone, just because she can. Fortunately, the skintight leather outfit she wears throughout doesn’t seem to impede her movements.

It’s all very predictable, formulaic stuff, and even the presence of the always eccentrically interesting Sally Kirkland in a minor role doesn’t provide much diversion. The action is periodically interrupted by Rhona’s frantic phone calls to Vladik inquiring about her son, which only makes you long for the days before cellphones when screen characters actually had to make an effort to place a call.

Acceleration is most effective in its superbly choreographed fight sequences, which Burn pulls off with aplomb — when you can see her, that is, since the action is bathed in the sort of metallic color scheme that mostly seems designed to test visual acuity. Entire scenes take place drenched in colors like blue, red and green, which seems less evocative of noirish visual atmosphere than a malfunction in the processing lab.  

Production company: 7Heaven Productions
Distributor: Cinetel Films
Cast: Sean Patrick Flanery, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Lidell, Natalie Burn, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Dobromir Mashukov, Sally Kirkland, Danny Trejo
Directors: Michael Merino, Daniel Zirilli
Screenwriter: Michael Merino
Producer: Natalie Burn
Executive producers: Paul Hertzberg, Eric Brenner
Director of photography: Jan-Michael Losada
Production designer: Candi Guterres
Editor: Mike Mendez
Composer: Gregory De Iulio
Costume designer: Toby Bronson
Casting: Natalie Burn

Rated R, 85 minutes