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DVD Review

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Survive the Night


Starring: Chad Michael Murray, Bruce Willis, Shea Buckner, Lydia Hull, Tyler Olson, Jessica Abrams and Riley Wolfe Rach
Distributor: Lionsgate UK
Certificate: 15
Release Date: 27 July 2020

I’ve been unable to confirm if this movie was shot during the first eight months of 2020, but if so, it certainly has the B-movie ingenuity of a lean and mean hermetic production. Billed as a “contained thriller” the primary cast of seven actors carries the whole show, actually only five of them do the heavy lifting. On the several occasions where the screenplay by Doug Wolfe ventures from the farmhouse where the action unfolds, the nightshift population is thin or simply home in bed.

The cast, led by Chad Michael Murray, is diligent and believable. Bruce Willis is more than adornment and the true motivating force behind his neurosurgeon son’s ethical predicament during a life and death home siege. Winning approval from the Bruce we can identify with. We all want to like Bruce and we want him to like us.

Armed robbers, brothers Jamie and Matthias, hold up a store after a robbery. Trigger happy Jamie (Buckner) needlessly kills a customer. His brother (Olson) is shot in the leg by the night manager. Arterial bleeding means doctor’s care is a must.

Herein the story begins playing footsie with time. Time is spent identifying a doctor (Rich) in a night emergency clinic, following him home and sneaking in to take over the house. Rich and his wife and daughter (Hull and Rach) have just moved back home with his parents after a gruelling malpractice lawsuit has left them bankrupt. Rich pled no contest and admitted he “should have stitched where he cut and cut where he should have stitched.” His wife Jan is outraged they have lost everything because Rich wouldn’t fight. Rich’s father, Frank, (Willis) sees it as another example of his son’s long list of gutless weaknesses. His mom, matriarchal Rachel, (Abrams) knows Rich, in his own way, is hewing to principle and still struggling under the shadow of Frank’s disapproval. Retired sheriff Frank sees life through his own rigid sense of honour. Something she knows and has tried to mediate all their lives.

All is put to a life or death test when Jamie and Mathias break in, immediately kill Rachel and hold the rest of the family as bound hostages while Rich gathers a makeshift medical kit to save the life of Jamie’s beloved big brother. Family values in conflict is meant to be the point here. Two different family forces at odds. Willis knows how it’s going to end up and tries for unity. Rich explains his malpractice failure to Jamie to no avail. His forced operation is prolonged but moot because of Matty’s loss of blood. The arbitrary arterial bleeding isn’t the only problem with the story. Willis distracts Jamie with a car chase away from the farm. Nothing is achieved. Just when Rich and his wife think they’re safe, Jamie pops back up to knock out Rich and regain control. Again, the timeline is arbitrary and contrived for the sake of surprises and set ups. Frank has been knifed in a fight and is beholden to his son for how to cope with his own life threatening wound. To tell more would be treading into spoiler territory. But I’ve probably told you too much as it is. Survive the Night is more promise than pay off.

Enough already. The Georgia countryside where Survive the Night was filmed has a fresh look. Director Matt Eskandari can stage action and domestic tension. He just can’t resuscitate the fitful script. Willis fans shouldn’t be disappointed but neither will they put this movie on the star’s top ten list. It’s more like seventy-fifth or maybe eighty-ninth.

Cinematography by Bryan Koss, using Arri Alexa digital cameras, is confident and competent. Post production has insured a modest “film grain look” to avoid the polished sheen of video. This movie is a template for future productions as exurb and rural locations the world over take the reins from urban super studios. Whether due to virus concerns or flight from urban overhead, this picture, as bad as it is, is the shape of things to come. Multiple producers, international finance and the state of Georgia’s Film Commission indicate a new perception of the global market. This movie will make money. Somewhere.


John Huff

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