Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 16, 2022)
With Bruce Willis now retired from acting, a vacuum exists that leaves open room for a new King of the Direct to Video Thriller. Via 2022 entries like Agent Game and now Hot Seat, Mel Gibson appears determined to grab that crown.
Orlando Friar (Kevin Dillon) works as an IT specialist. Eventually he finds himself the pawn of a mysterious force who wants Orlando to use his skills to steal digital funds or suffer severe consequences.
As part of this method of coercion, Orlando winds up in a chair booby-trapped with explosives that will detonate if he leaves the location. While complications mount, bomb squad expert Wallace Reed (Gibson) comes onto the scene to assist.
Boy, that sounds awfully reminiscent of 1994’s classic Speed, doesn’t it? I’m sure the resemblance is totally coincidental – and by “totally coincidental”, I mean “completely intentional”.
Not that Seat slavishly copies from the Keanu Reeves hit, as the two take divergent paths in a number of ways. Still, the basic premise of Seat hews more than close enough to that of Speed for the influence to become obvious.
Of course, Speed essentially just reused the Die Hard template, so perhaps I shouldn’t criticize Seat for its derivative nature. Besides, as the durability of the Die Hard premise demonstrated, just because a story shows obvious influences doesn’t mean it can’t click.
Unfortunately, Seat finds nothing interesting to do with its concept. Essentially the basic plot feels less like an organic notion for a thriller and more a way to execute a story on a low budget.
Tales set in extremely limited locations can succeed, of course. Hitchcock did well with restricted settings for movies like Rope and Rear Window, and even a flawed filmmaker like Joel Schumacher turned into a pretty engaging effort.
While I view Schumacher as an inconsistent director, compared to Seat’s James Cullen Bressack, Schumacher looks like… well, Hitchcock. Bressack cranks out direct to video flicks such as this at a pretty brisk clip, and he does nothing to bring spark or personality to them.
As noted, Seat comes with a concept that might be influenced by Speed but that still enjoys taut potential. Unfortunately, Bressack’s inability to find anything beyond clichés makes this a surprisingly dull affair.
Not that Bressack doesn’t attempt to convince us that he provides a thrilling tale. Seat pulls out all the usual cinematic stops, with flashy cutting, insistent music and furrowed brows all around.
These methods seem desperate, as though Bressack lacked confidence in the script and figured he needed to throw everything at the wall to infuse the movie with some signs of life. However, I suspect Bressack becomes the problem, not the screenplay.
No, I won’t claim that the script from Collin Watts and Leon Langford shows great skill, but it comes with the bones of a decent flick. Bressack simply lacks the ability to do anything interesting with the material.
This means he relies on every cinematic gimmick he can find to imply drama and excitement. As often becomes the case, these choices backfire, so the end result seems so over-eager to deliver tension that it quickly turns annoying.
The actors seem to realize that they find themselves in a dog and perform in a corresponding way. That said, Gibson appears more invested than one might expect. Perhaps the massive downturn his career took a while back made him better appreciate whatever roles he could get.
Even Gibson at his peak couldn’t save this train wreck. Predictable, stale and devoid of entertainment value, Hot Seat wastes its potential.