“Acts of Vengeance,” a convenience-store meat stick of a movie, is plenty laughable, but it’s also directed by Isaac Florentine and performed by Antonio Banderas with an air of itch-scratching purpose that syncs well enough with its fast, cheap and stupid thrills.
Banderas plays a high-powered defense attorney known for getting criminals acquitted on technicalities, but who becomes a masochistic alcoholic punching bag in underground fight clubs after his own wife and daughter are killed the night of a school talent recital that he missed.
That’s a lot of ouch to unpack. But with the help of philosophical Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius — sadly not played by anyone, just used for his manning-up advice from “Meditations,” quoted in title cards — Banderas takes a vow of silence (heightening his other senses!), gets in shape, takes karate lessons and hunts down the killer with the help of a sexy ER doctor (Paz Vega).
Admit you want to see this play out, don’t you? Especially since Banderas, God love him, treats the role seriously enough with his stoic muteness, accompanied by Spanish-purr narration that was surely added under the assumption that action fans can’t read subtle facial expressions.
He also kicks butt well. If he’s auditioning for Neeson-ification as a late-career badass, it’s a large buttered popcorn’s-worth start, because occasionally, when you Death Wish upon a star and that star is Banderas, you get a serviceable time-waster like “Acts of Vengeance.”
Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes
Rating: R, for violence and language
Playing: Laemmle NoHo 7, North Hollywood