Steven C. Miller (Escape Plan 2 in 2018) had collaborated with Bruce Willis on two films, Extraction and Marauders, before delivering Willis mano y mano with Hayden Christensen in First Kill. Here, Christensen’s Will wants to get his son, Danny (Ty Shelton), away from the bullies who have repeatedly drawn the boy into school violence. So, he’s brought him up to the forest of Will’s youth to learn how to fire a gun, until the two trip across the bank robbery scheme that Willis’ corrupt sheriff Howell has planned. Will Will the accountant discover enough chuzpah to save his son?
It seems that the latest approach to a Willis vehicle is to pair him with another younger male actor with a bit of poster boy flair. In the previous films, it was Adrien Grenier and Kellen Lutz respectively, but in this one, Miller carefully places Willis and Christensen on opposite sides of the chessboard. [I mean, seriously, we know from a creepy-yet-benign traffic stop that Willis’ cop is up to no good.] Frankly, their dichotomy is much less interesting than the father/son relationship that Christensen and Shelton play with from a violence perspective.
Will has brought his son into the wilds to explore hunting even though it’s to be counter programming for his son’s violent reaction to being bullied. His son even directly asks him how he knows getting shot by a rifle doesn’t hurt a deer… But Will stresses “safety, safety, safety” to him, reminding him “to never point a gun at another human being.”
And then Will spends the next sixty minutes having to use any means possible – even guns – to save his son from the bank robbers (including Gethin Anthony’s Levi). So, we’re basically in a “do what I say and not what I do” motif, right? Somehow, the ethics have gotten complicated even if the movie isn’t. It’s in essence a “guy fighting to get his son back” movie that takes a corporate accountant and drives him to act like Liam Neeson for an hour.
Thankfully, the shooting (of the film) is slick enough, and Christensen plays Will earnestly enough, to make the film engaging. This is definitely not Willis’ best movie – he’s not in it as much as you’d expect – but it shows a definitive growth arc for Christensen from the guy who played angsty pre-Darth.
Special features for First Kill include director’s commentary, deleted scenes, a look behind the scenes, and interviews with cast and crew.