Detective Knight: Redemption is the middle part of a trilogy centered on Detective James Knight (Bruce Willis). The first installment, which came out in 2022, is subtitled Rogue. The conclusion, to be released this year, will be subtitled Independence. Writer-director Edward John Drake explains in the Redemption bonus features that he was purposefully crafting an action swan song for Willis with this trilogy. The actor went public in 2022 with his diagnosis of aphasia, which sadly has forced him into early retirement.
In the last several years, the action legend has been extremely prolific. In 2022 alone, Willis appeared in something like a dozen movies. Even for longtime fans, that’s a lot of movies to keep up with. Most of these are generic action thrillers that are frequently difficult to distinguish from one another. Not helping matters is the fact that Willis doesn’t really “star” in these movies (he’s usually listed second above the title, in Redemption it is Paul Johansson who’s top-billed). Willis is just kind of… there. That’s not a knock against him. It has been well documented that his aphasia, which affects the ability to comprehend language, was actively compromising his ability to act. As a result, his extended cameo appearances are minimalist affairs.
Again, director Drake (assisted here by co-screenwriter Corey Large, who also appears in a supporting role) makes it clear in the bonus featurette that Willis’ condition was a given during production. His stated intent is to cap Willis’ formidable career with a grand action-spectacle saga. Full disclosure, I didn’t see Detective Knight: Rogue. Based on the flashbacks and allusions in Redemption (not to mention the title), Detective Knight got himself into some trouble in the previous film. Now he’s getting out of prison for his misdoings, just in time to participate in an operation to stop the domestic terror group leader Ricky Conlan (Johansson). Known as the Christmas Bomber, Conlan and his cohorts dress as Santa Claus and go around bombing public spaces with the apparent goal of forcing the formation of a new world order.
There are some watchable, serviceable action sequences sprinkled throughout Redemption. The opening attack by Conlan and his gang is a reasonably stylish highlight. Like most of these Willis-starring, nearly-direct-to-video features (the film apparently was screened in a few theaters, somewhere, in December, 2022), even at 90 minutes it becomes a slog. The Blu-ray edition contains a pair of featurettes. “A Christmas Surprise” is basically a promotional piece, running a scant four minutes. “Drawing Inspiration,” running 17 minutes, provides probably as much background on Detective Knight: Redemption as anyone would want.