Review

Pulpy 'Acts of Violence' uses a dash of Bruce Willis and a pinch of Mike Epps to get the job done

Pick any ripped-from-the-headlines social ill, and odds are screenwriter Nicolas Aaron Mezzanatto and director Brett Donowho have worked it into their gritty action picture “Acts of Violence.” Human trafficking, opioid addiction, PTSD… It’s all a tad too serious for a movie that’s essentially a tawdry pulp thriller.

Still, anyone who comes to “Acts of Violence” looking for colorfully sleazy characters and shootouts — as opposed to nuanced public policy briefs — should find enough reasons to stick around. The picture’s choppily paced but generally lively, thanks to comedian Mike Epps’ ice-cool turn as a shrewd crime lord, and an unusually energized Bruce Willis in another of his recent string of “Can you shoot all my scenes in two days?” gigs.

Cole Hauser stars as Deklan, a struggling Iraq war vet who finds renewed purpose when his future sister-in-law Mia (Melissa Bolona) gets kidnapped from her bachelorette party. Alongside brothers Brendan (Shawn Ashmore) and Roman (Ashton Holmes), Deklan tracks down the fiends who broke up his family.

Willis pops up only occasionally as the rule-bending lawman who surreptitiously helps the boys, while Epps drops by every 10 minutes or so to scold his lackeys for making dumb decisions and endangering his stable of doped-up prostitutes (or “products”).

Mostly though, this is a movie about military-trained brothers doing the job the cops won’t. Any hard messages it means to deliver are hard to hear over the frequent sound of gunfire.

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‘Acts of Violence’

Rating: R, for violence, language throughout, sexuality/nudity and drug material

Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica

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