With seven black belts in various martial arts skills Michael Jai White adds the lead role in action fest The Island to over 100 films he has already starred and this is the latest where his female lead is also his wife Gillian White. This latest film of theirs see them once again kicking ass on The Island of the title , a non-specific location which is meant to be in the Caribbean yet as seen here seems devoid of the usual joie de vivre found there. Perhaps because here The Island in question has been taken over by a corrupt tycoon Manuel (Edoardo Costa) seen in the opening scene watching a lounge singer caterwauling away with her hotel lobby band in support and in an effort to impress her beckons he over where a clumsy waiter spills wine on her. Manuel, seemingly with the trigger hair temper of a divorced Vietnam vet, kills him in front of her. It’s the sort of petty vindictiveness that suggests that if Kim Jong Un’s servant overcooked his soft boiled eggs for breakfast then the kitchen staff could expect a nuclear strike on their house. It’s only later that Manuel finds that the waiter is the brother of LA cop Mark (Michael Jai White) introduced in an undercover drug deal takedown setting him up as the martial arts man of mayhem.
Relying on his cop instincts Mark goes to The Island where he also grew up to find out what really happened to his brother and inevitably his and Manuel’s paths cross leading to the inevitable smack down between the two. Yes, it’s a plot with all the imagination of Robbie Robertson’s parents choosing a name for him. There are a number of fights as White takes on Manuel’s henchmen all on whom are singularly and woefully inept, able to be suffocated with a bag over their head in less than 5 seconds when Manuel takes out his own men after failing a task he has set them.
White, now 56 years of age, is still supple enough to pull off roundhouse kicks and at least the film frames his fights so that this can be seen to best effect but on the action front that’s about it. In an era where films like John Wick and Extraction have shown that there are stuntmen turned directors who really know how to put an action film together, The Island pales in comparison as helmed by Shaun Paul Piccinino, himself an ex-stuntman, and with 20 largely forgettable films to his credit as director
Michael Jai White deserves better and would have been ideal in a franchise such as The Expendables but this film is a poor showcase for his martial arts skills. Flatly lit with uninspired set pieces and a generic title hardly helps (‘Kick Ass in the Caribbean’ maybe?) . The film would have benefitted from more scenes with his real life wife Gillian (here playing his characters ex-wife) as they did in ‘Take Back’ (although that was a far from perfect actioner too). Instead The Island is a formulaic straight to video hokum.
related feature : Michael Jai White & Gillian White in ‘Take Back’ – reviewed here
We chatted to Michael Jai White and Gillian White about the making of The Island…
Here’s The Island trailer…..