It’s fair to say that a WWE Studios film based on a graphic novel you probably haven’t heard of directed by Ralphie from A Christmas Story and starring Vince Vaughn sporting the most ridiculous hairdo of his career isn’t a big sell for many.
A heist planner (Vaughn) gets on the bad side of the mob when he’s framed for a botched job, landing him on the run with his estranged, understandably moody teenage daughter (Hailee Steinfeld). In addition to the mob, the pair also need to keep an eye out for a corrupt detective (Bill Paxton) keen to tie up all loose ends.
Despite featuring an unexpected all-star cast (also including Vaughn’s Swingers pal Jon Favreau and Terrence Howard in a brief third-act role), this is an almost totally flat, mediocre effort from first frame to last. Billingsley, whose first film was the wretchedly forgettable 2009 “comedy” Couples Retreat, establishes a visually dull, blandly serious crime scenario, which clashes with subsequent comic relief and the would-be-touching father-daughter relationship drama. It desperately wants to echo Shane Black’s better thrillers, but considering that the R-rated language is mostly witless and the action is surprisingly bloodless, it just ends up feeling totally safe and trite.
Basic plot beats end up making no sense at all, there’s a near-pointless alcoholism subplot thrown in for good measure, and an intermittent Vaughn voiceover was almost certainly added abruptly in post-production to fix a nonsensical edit.
The lovely Steinfeld is a mildly entertaining foil here and certainly the least embarrassing of the main cast, and seeing Favreau and Vaughn screaming at each other for one scene is pretty fun, but otherwise it succeeds as neither a crime caper or a family dramedy. Billingsley very occasionally touches on the vibe that made Luc Besson’s Leon such a cult hit back in the day, but mostly it’s just going through the motions with not a scrap of visual ingenuity whatsoever. On the other hand, just imagine how much worse this one could’ve been without the Vaughn-Steinfeld double act, which does have its skittish charms.
Term Life is available on VOD now