Take Back (USA, 2021)

A woman’s past comes back to haunt her in this martial arts action film from the director of The Vigilante Diaries and Payback.

For real estate lawyer Zara Rollins, she has it all. A loving husband in high school teacher and martial arts instructor Brian, a loving stepdaughter, and a great job. Things couldn’t look brighter for Zara. However, one fateful morning when Zara goes to her favorite coffee shop, things are about to change. When the barista is confronted by an abusive ex, Zara intervenes and uses her martial arts skills to take down the perpetrator. The surveillance footage is all over the news and she is hailed as a hero.

The news story also attracts the attention of Patrick, a notorious trafficker who has kidnapped young women for his ring. Over five years ago, Zara was known as Kim and she was a victim of Patrick’s.She would escape thanks to her street smarts and shortly after, she met Brian and her life had changed for the better. Now that Patrick has learned that Kim/Zara has reemerged and is now fighting back more than ever, he resorts to kidnapping her stepdaughter. This forces her to tell Brian the truth about her dark past and, gives her a chance for redemption as they team up to rescue the daughter and stop Patrick once and for all.

One of the first films to be shot during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, this film directed by Christian Sesma has its ups and downs. It’s more of a mixed bag, but one thing is for sure. It is meant to launch Gillian White, the wife of action star Michael Jai White, as a new female action star. For the most part, it does succeed. While her husband does take lead supporting role, don’t expect too much action from him, but for MJW, he is an able-bodied actor who doesn’t always need to show his skills in every movie he does and proves it here.

While James Russo does a pretty decent job as a police detective who attempts to look into Zara’s case after her heroic act, the downfall comes in the form of Mickey Rourke. He just doesn’t seem to fit well in the role of lead villain Patrick. He comes off as well, a more likable fellow who spends his time loving and feeding his dogs. Even when he has a conversation with his lead henchman Dwayne, played by constant Sesma collaborator Paul Sloan, the social distancing takes effect here, but it looks as if Rourke is looking directly across a table at Sloan, and yet we see Sloan all the way by the door. The angle from Rourke’s point of view just seems off here. If he had looked at Sloan from where Sloan is standing, it would look more convincing.

The action of the film is quite sporadic, but it makes its point known. Gillian White learned well from her husband because she looks quite good when she fights. However, there are times when we are dealt with the problematic technical flaw known as “shaky cam”. This comes in a scene where Gillian White faces off against a home invader hired by Patrick. The invader is played by taekwondo expert and actor David No and while it’s great seeing him on screen again after The Debt Collector, the shaky cam ends up somewhat ruins the integrity of the fight. The final action scene is also a bit of a letdown and it just ends up pretty much meh.

Take back has its moments but with technical flaws and a pretty bland performance from Mickey Rourke, this film is ultimately a watch once and then you’ll forget about it. However, on the upside, this could be a stepping stone to have Gillian White as a potential action star, as long as she gets the right projects to showcase her skills as a lead.

WFG RATING: C-

Shout! Studios presents a 101 Films production in association with Seskri Films. Director: Christian Sesma. Producers: Mike Hatton, Michael Walker, and Christian Sesma. Writer: Zach Zerries. Cinematography: Anthony J. Rickert-Epstein. Editing: Eric Potter.

Cast: Gillian White, Michael Jai White, Mickey Rourke, James Russo, Paul Sloan, Jessica Uberuaga, Nick Vallelongo, Jay Montalvo, Priscilla Walker, Chris Browning, David No.

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