Ever since the little invention known as the internet came along, it’s become pretty hard for movie lovers to be surprised. There are a million sites full of spoilers. We know when a movie is being released, the cast, planned sequels and the entire script before production ever begins. However, every now and then, something slips by, just under the radar. It might be a hidden gem or it could be a flick better left buried. And then there are those that could easily fit into either category. Case in point, the latest from Wesley Snipes called Gallowwalkers (2012).
Wesley Snipes has fallen quite a ways since his days of being a leading man in Hollywood. His last true starring flick was Blade: Trinity in 2004, and even that was a step down from previous entries in that series. By the next year, he was quickly relegated to direct-to-video, that desolate place where old action stars go to die. In 2006, he was indicted on eight counts of tax fraud and was sentenced to three years in prison in 2008. He owed the government $20 million and eventually paid $5 million. Meanwhile, his career came to a halt. He served his prison time from 2010 until his release earlier this year. As of July 19, 2013, his house arrest sentence ended. Now a free man, the question is whether or not he will attempt to regain his status as a leading man in Hollywood or will he return to the direct-to-video offerings. Gallowwalkers might be an indication of things to come.
Gallowwalkers has been in production for nearly eight years now. It was originally titled The Wretched and Chow Yun-Fat held the lead role of Rellik. Bulletproof Monk had an underwhelming box office and there were concerns on whether or not he was the right choice. It was set to begin filming in Mexico in June 2005 but the first of countless delays put it on the back burner. Then, Wesley Snipes was brought in and the lead character’s name was changed to Kaos before eventually becoming Aman. The filming location was changed from Mexico to Namibia, primarily for cost reasons. Unfortunately, production hit a snag once again when Snipes was indicted on the tax fraud charges. In December 2006, just two months into production, Snipes left Namibia and returned to the United States to face the charges. He was eventually released on a $1 million bond and allowed to return to Namibia to finish the film. And then Gallowwalkers fell off the radar.
Little is known about the production after that point. It’s safe to say filming finished in 2007 but there’s no indication as to why it sat on a shelf for six more years. It is possible producers waited until Snipes was released in hopes to avoid any negative press. However, this movie has had no press at all. Despite being planned for a theatrical release, it quietly found its way onto the DVD shelves on Aug. 6. I first became aware of it when I stumbled across a trailer on another DVD. There was no release date and iMDB gives it a date of 2012. So, was the wait and all the mystery around its production worth it? I’m still on the fence.
Visually, the movie is stunning. Set entirely in the desert, it immediately gives one images of a spaghetti western. Set in the old west, the story is about a gunman named Aman (Wesley Snipes). His mother was a nun and, because she broke her vow with God and was saved by a mysterious group of women living in the desert, Aman is cursed. Anyone who dies at his hands comes back to life as a zombie-like creature. Kevin Howarth plays the main villain of the piece, Kansa, who leads the cult-like band of victims in pursuit of revenge. We have some lovely women thrown in for good measure, a sub-plot concerning a protégé of Aman, a crazy woman living in the desert raising the bastard child of a woman whom Aman loved and whose death started this chain of events. We have cool imagery of a skinless man (which we needed to see more of) and some good gun fights. But is it all worth it?
Ultimately, Gallowwalkers is a unique film in that it looks much better visually than a SyFy Saturday night special but the script is very sub-par. Heck, I’m not even sure there was anything coherent about it. While watching the movie, I immediately had flashbacks to Jonah Hex (2010), a movie with some cool scenes but horrible editing. This movie deserved a much better script and some tighter editing and it could have been more memorable. As it stands, it’s worth a rental out of curiosity. Your eyes will enjoy it but your brain will undoubtedly lose interest. Not the big return Wesley Snipes was hoping for.