February 25th, 2022
MOVIE: GASOLINE ALLEY
STARRING: DEVON SAWA, BRUCE WILLIS, LUKE WILSON, KAT FOSTER
DIRECTED BY: EDWARD DRAKE
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 1 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
I want to preface this review by saying Gasoline Alley is by far one of the better of Bruce Willis’ recent string of direct to VOD movies. That’s honestly what makes it’s failures so sad, where Gasoline Alley is not bad by any of Willis’ fault, but because it’s just a slow burning drama that leaves you wishing it could find a spark. It’s a movie about shady characters in all walks of life, from drug dealers, to crooked cops, and an ex-con turned tattoo artist that becomes mixed up in a string of murdered prostitutes. Gasoline Alley is the sad kind of bad, with capable actors, mixed up in an ugly drama that soaks you in the gas and leaves a bad smell on your clothes.
The lead character is Jimmy Jayne- played by Devon Sawa- a black shirt wearing, chain smoking, tattoo artist, who we meet sulking at the bar. He’s approached by a woman named Star (Irina Antonenko), asking him if he’s looking for a good time, but for Jimmy he’s just trying to forget. What he fails to remember is that he let Star borrow his Gasoline Alley tattoo parlor lighter, so when Star winds up dead in a motel room, detective Vargas (Luke Wilson) and Freeman (Willis) come knocking on his door. But for Jimmy, he doesn’t like the heat, so instead of sitting around, letting the bad guys, or crooked cops make him the fall guy, Jimmy does his own investigating, sticking his nose into a situation he might regret.
Just spelling the setup out makes Gasoline Alley sound better than it actually is. The myriad of problems lie in the screenplay by director Edward Drake (who also made American Siege and Cosmic Sin) and Tom Sierchio, which fails to write a single character to care about, and dragging us along in a sluggish pursuit of finding who the killer is. That of course includes ridiculous posturing from various characters, with Luke Wilson playing the role more subdued than the rest, while Sawa is constantly subjected to being the rugged mystery man. Outside of the movies two main stars is a collection of character actors, each one playing a bigger stereotype than the next, from a Hollywood prop guy that has access to everything, a drug dealer at a party who only knows the word fu*k, and women there to be treated as objects.
It’s not all gloom and doom though for Gasoline Alley. Were it allowed to perk up at any moment the audience might be thrilled by the investigation of the murders. Sawa is more than capable of carrying a film- he’s fine here, just not in much of an exciting plot. The big highlight is Sufe Bradshaw, who shows up midway through as an informant to Jimmy on where Star hung out, and who her potential killer could be. Drake- a more than capable director that feels stuck in the easy process of DTV productions- has a better movie buried inside, but ultimately fails to flush out any of Gasoline Alley’s well thought theatrics.
The saddest part is that it’s another miss in the long stream of bad Bruce Willis movies. His role here is insignificant. He has a few lines where he barks at Sawa’s character, telling him the cops will be watching, and appearing at a drug dealers club. His status of being knocked around by critics- including yours truly- has become a tired act. An entire category at the Razzies surely won’t make him listen to anyone. I just wish a movie like Gasoline Alley would have been the one that worked. Instead it’s just another dud with nothing left in the tank.
GASOLINE ALLEY IS PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS AND AVAILABLE ON DEMAND ON FRIDAY FEBRUARY 25TH, 2022.
1 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady