I have to admit that I was totally unaware of Michael Jai White before I saw The Island. I didn’t know that he was a multiple black belt in a variety of martial arts. I didn’t know that he had over 120 acting credits even though I had actually seen several of his appearances. I just thought “big, tough guy” and immediately started to second guess what his role would be. After all, some of the appearances I’d seen him in were things like the Toxic Avenger sequels, the Universal Soldier franchise, and films with titles like Full Contact, Fist Of Justice, or Renegade. So my guess was there’ll be plenty of action but don’t expect a lot of dialogue.
The Island starts off with plenty of drone shots showing an island paradise. We cut to a young woman, Nora (Cami Storm) singing for a chap sitting at a table, Manuel (Edoardo Costa). He is the owner of the establishment they are sitting in and invites the woman to sit with him and have a drink. The waiter, Akeem (Tristan Duncan), fumbles and spills red wine on Nora’s white dress. Manuel demonstrates an exceptionally robust approach to on the job training and explains to Nora that she works for him now. So, five minutes in and the mayhem has started and we know that Manuel is the big bad guy who expects things to be done his way.
The Island Just Isn’t The Same Any More
Next we cut to a building site somewhere in the backwaters of Los Angeles. Sitting in a car are Mark (Michael Jai White) and Phil (Jackson Rathbone). There’s a bit of banter between them and a car rolls up…it seems that there is a drug deal going down! Carlos (Gabriel Rios) and Jose (Gabriel “G-Rod” Rodriguez) are there to sell the old marching powder to Mark and Phil. But…double cross! Carlos and Jose decide that they want the drugs AND the money. This is when Mark and Phil reveal that they are undercover police officers and arrest the bad guys after a bit of a scrap. Oh, that’s hardly a spoiler as all the blurb says that Mark is an LAPD officer.
While the dust is settling and the banter is winding down Mark receives a phone call. You can tell it is bad news and the next shot is Mark wearing a black suit and arriving at the island. It turns out that Akeem was Mark’s brother. And from this point on we have our story proper starting. Mark comes back to the island he grew up on to seek retribution/justice/revenge for his brother. There is also a chance that he might be reconciled with his ex-wife, Akilah (Gillian White), who runs a dojo on the island. Seemingly this is the only business on the island not to be under Manuel’s control.
This Cop Is More Trouble Than We Expected
And from this point on the story follows fairly standard lines. That though, doesn’t make it any less entertaining. There is action aplenty; given Mr White’s background that’s hardly surprising. There is jeopardy as Manuel closes in on Mark’s family and friends in a bid to control him. There are reunions between both people on the island and friends from Los Angeles. News of Mark’s explorations reaches Manuel and swarms of foot soldiers are sent to deal with him. With each wave Manuel’s army diminishes in size. Partly due to Mark’s effectiveness as a fighter and partly due to the way Manuel rewards failure.
Incidentally, the biggest plot hole for me was that everything kicks off when Mark comes back for Akeem’s funeral. I would have thought that someone who gets through as many staff members as Manuel does would have a more efficient way of getting rid of corpses; an alligator farm, a sausage factory, a lava pit, etc. Still, that is a relatively minor niggle and more than adequately outweighed by a fairly standard story which is well padded out with top notch fight choreography. Basically, you know what’s going to happen but you don’t get bored on the way! The Island is available on UK digital platforms from 29th January 2024.
Movie Grade: B
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Former teacher, lecturer, homelessness administrator, pharmacy dispenser now happily retired, happily married, and a very happy granddad. I live next to the Mersey but on the side Daniel Craig and Taron Egerton come from rather than the side the Beatles came from!