‘Precious Cargo’ is the type of painfully generic action movie that used to gather dust on video store shelves back when those existed and now sucks up precious bandwidth on streaming services. Movies like this are designed to disappoint anyone with expectations beyond the picture being feature length.
The movie does have a star (in this case Bruce Willis) to trick viewers into a click, but that guy doesn’t get up to much. This action movie sticks to formula so closely that viewers can pretty much guess every twist, turn and plot development by the time they’re done reading the logline.
Having apparently been saved by the proverbial bell, Mark-Paul Gosselaar now plays a professional thief who’s just hoping to enjoy retirement on a beach with his veterinarian girlfriend (Lydia Hull). Unfortunately, that’s not going to work out. (Who’d ever see that coming?) His former misses (Claire Forlani) shows up pregnant and demanding help after bungling a multimillion dollar heist for Bruce Willis. She has a chance to set things right, but she needs Gosselaar’s help and has a variety of hired goons on her tail complicating matters. Obviously, that means that there will be all sorts of bickering between the love triangle as well as the occasional chase, shoot-out and explosion. You can also expect a few more bickering sidekicks to pop up, including Gosselaar’s go-to sharp-shooter Jenna B. Kelly, who just happens to be model beautiful. Yeah, it’s the type of movie that feels exactly like real life, if you’re completely delusional and confuse your real life with direct-to-video action trash from the ’90s.
First-time director and co-writer Max Adams is clearly enamored with snarky action movies from the ’80s and ’90s. His film was likely intended to be an homage to that brand of entertainment, but ends up feeling more like a parody. Characters speak in such a ludicrously snappy style that the dialogue scenes somehow play as louder and more obnoxious than any of the action. Lines like “I hate games. In fact I quit grade school because I hated motherfucking recess” probably seemed clever to the coked-up collaborators during pre-production, but feel tediously amateurish when spoken by actual human beings. Everyone on screen seems to be a foul-mouthed comedian, even the characters who are supposed to be innocent. Worse, they all sound like the same person, and that person is an asshole.
With a script this bad, there wasn’t much the actors could do, but that doesn’t make it any less painful to watch them attempt to make this nonsense work. Mark-Paul Gosselaar is an unconventional action lead but handles the physicality fairly well. He might even be watchable in an action flick like this with a decent script, but carrying the burden of this crap stretches his limited talents. He’s clearly trying hard to make the jokes land, but his success rate is even lower than it was in ‘Saved by the Bell: The College Years’.
Claire Forlani is another ’90s relic. While it’s nice to see her again, she doesn’t bring much. She looks visibly exhausted most of the time and it’s hard not to feel bad for her as she struggles to be both mysterious and alluring in a character that doesn’t even have two dimensions to play.
Bruce Willis might headline the movie in every bit of marketing material you can find, but he’s only on screen for a handful of scenes and isn’t even really present in any of them. He just stands around looking like Bruce Willis and delivering every line with a sigh, hoping that his longstanding love from action fans will carry over to this paycheck without any effort on his part. He’s wrong. It’s hard to feel anything other than apathy for his performance. There are other characters and actors involved as well, but it’s hardly even worth mentioning them given that the film doesn’t seem to care about them.
As for the action… well, it’s there. A boat chase in the early going is about as exciting as a low-budget boat chase can be, and there are definitely plenty of guns firing off blanks. Don’t expect much style or heft to any of it, though. To be fair to Adams, he was likely hampered by extreme budget limitations (as well as Bruce Willis’ bare minimum participation as the villain) and got what he could. That’s really true of the movie as a whole. It’s one of those generic genre efforts that only leaves one thought in your head as it wraps up: “Well, at least they tried.”
As redundant and repetitive as the film is, at least it was made by people who wanted to deliver a decent action movie (except for Willis, who’s practically turning apathy into a performance art piece at this point). It hits enough of the right notes that viewers with appropriately low expectations should feel like they got what they came for. There’s also something amusing about watching Zack Morris drop F-bombs while brandishing firearms. Sure, it’s a shame that nothing about the movie ever transcends mediocrity, but at least it consistently hits mediocrity. Sadly, that’s more than most throwaway action flicks of this sort can claim.