Phoenix (2023) Review – Voices From The Balcony

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Phoenix Poster

Jim Morazzini

Everett Grant (Randy Couture, Antidote, Blowback) has a beef with Russian mobster Maxim Vasiliiv played by Oleg Prudius (Miami Heat, The Weapon) or if you’re a pro wrestling fan, Vladimir Kozlov. It seems Everett’s security company has been cutting into the Russian mob’s profits and they’re not happy about that. Since Phoenix is an action film, they decide to settle it with a fight to the death. That would be Everett’s death via a bullet to the head made to look like suicide.

WWE wrestler Natalie Eva Marie (Hard Kill, Inconceivable) plays Everett’s daughter Fiona, Phoenix to her friends. She’s told of his death by General Shackleton (Neal McDonough, There Are No Saints, Bad Country). She knows he would never have killed himself and decides to put her hand to hand combat trainer’s skills to work finding answers. And that’s about it for Phoenix’s plot.

Writer/director Daniel Zirilli (Invincible, Renegades) gives us a seemingly unbeatable villain in Vasiliiv. He’s an absolute scumbag, into human trafficking, drugs and anything else profitable. He’s also powerful enough to have the mayor of Maimi kidnapped and burnt alive for saying he’d take him down. And as if matters weren’t personal enough, it’s implied he had Fiona’s mother killed when she was a child.

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And then he spends the rest of the film letting Phoenix kill his goons and work his way up to him. It’s strictly Action 101 stuff but on the kind of budget that means the cast’s mouths do as much work as their muscles. After the opening scene’s fights, the film is almost half over before another punch is thrown. And even after that it only comes to life sporadically until the last few minutes.

Granted the fights we get do tend to look good, the cast is stocked with wrestlers, MMA fighters and the like. Apart from Couture, Eva Marie and Prudius, we also get appearances from Rashad Evans (Boss Level, Death Warrior), Frank Mir (Force of Execution, Sharknado 4: The 4th Awakens) and Chuck Zito (1990: Bronx Warriors, Sons of Anarchy), the former president of the New York Hells Angels who allegedly KO’d JCVD in a fight at a strip club.

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But the film is filled with stupid moments and plot devices, such as Vasiliiv watching Fiona kicking the shit out of his goons and not shooting her. He also later tells his goons to bring her to him alive, which gives her one hell of an advantage in fighting them. It also gives the viewer a headache from the unbelievably bad scene where the two of them sit down to lunch together and he tries hitting on her.

She and Artemis (Jonathan Camp, Mojave Diamonds, The Lurking Fear) whom her father had hired to watch over her if she ever came home. They head to the family compound which is complete with an armory, and make a stand. Helped along by a character who happens to have a helicopter gunship in his backyard. No wonder she could turn General Shackleton down when he offered to send US troops to act as a hit squad if she wanted.

Perhaps the most amusing thing about Phoenix is the appearance of Bai Ling (Night Caller, Johnny & Clyde) as Scavenger. With her huge lips and neon lipstick, she looks scarier than she does in most horror films she’s in, and funnier than all of her jokes in Exorcism at 60,000 Feet combined. When that’s the high point of your film you know you have a major problem.

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Zirilli did a decent job with Renegades, but he totally misses the mark here. If this was meant as a throwback to the direct to Blockbuster films with Rowdy” Roddy Piper (Hell Comes to Frogtown, Immortal Combat), Don “The Dragon” Wilson (Bloodfist, Ring of Fire), or even John Matuszak (One Man Force, Hollywood Beat) it needed a lot more action to distract from the plot and acting.

And we can only hope the threatened sequel doesn’t happen. Because in the end, Phoenix might have been able to take down the Russian Mafia, but she couldn’t defeat The Curse of the Tubi Original. And that’s one fight that doesn’t need a rematch.

Phoenix is available on Tubi.