With all the viewing content available at the click of a button, it’s possible the new Scott Caan thriller One Day as a Lion will fall through the cracks. Don’t let that happen. New to DVD and Digital HD (courtesy of Lionsgate home entertainment), One Day as a Lion boasts a strong cast and enough quirks and surprising moments to make it stand out amongst the direct-to-video heap.
Caan (who also wrote the screenplay) stars as boxer-turned-hitman Jackie Powers. Jackie’s teen son, Billy (Dash Melrose), is sitting in juvenile detention, awaiting a hearing on charges for a crime in which he was only tangentially involved. What’s a desperate dad to do? Jackie takes his first assignment in his newly adopted “profession,” hoping the payoff will cover his son’s legal fees.
The Lion and the Diner
The target is Walter (J.K. Simmons, Oscar winner for Whiplash), a rancher who managed to rack up big debts to organized crime boss Pauly (Frank Grillo). It’s no spoiler to reveal that Jackie gets cold feet, can’t complete his assignment, and finds himself the target of Pauly’s henchmen, led by Dom (George Carroll, also known by his rap name, Slaine). The botched hit occurs at a diner—Walter escapes on horseback. The only people present after Walter flees are Jackie, a waitress named Lola (Marianne Rendón), and her boss Bob (Bruce Davis, more on him later). Lola is so totally bored with her life as a waitress that when Jackie holds her as a hostage, she becomes more like a willing accomplice.
There’s actually a lot of plot development in One Day as a Lion and no real need to recap it all. In addition to the names already mentioned, Virginia Madsen (as Lola’s ailing mom) and Taryn Manning (as Billy’s mom) show up for supporting turns of varying interest levels (Madsen is playful, Manning is nondescript). And Caan has delivered a lot of dialogue to dig into, resulting in a movie that remains engrossing if for no other reason than the quality of its colorful cast.
Whatever Lola Wants
Speaking of which, though the box art prominently features Caan, Simmons, and Grillo, the film’s true star is Marianne Rendón as Lola. Rendón infuses every moment of her screentime, no matter how seemingly minor, with notes of subtle intrigue. Turns out, Lola is a struggling actress (the acting school she opened in Costa Rica turned into a disaster). This gives Rendón the ability to occasionally play characters within her character, as Lola’s acting chops are called upon as Jackie tries to get out of his predicament.
Caan shades his characters with surprisingly graceful notes of emotion, but it’s Rendón who shines the brightest. She’s also the least well-known of the topline cast, so hopefully more people will discover her (fans of the Bravo show The Imposters and/or the CW show In the Dark will already be familiar).
Here’s the one snag—the one big misstep—that can’t be ignored. During Jackie’s failed hit attempt on Walter, Bob (the restaurant owner) takes a bullet to the head when he’s caught in the crossfire. The bullet came from Jackie’s gun. Jackie apparently hasn’t so much as stolen a candy bar, let alone tried to execute a hit. Yet here he is, a murderer now, and he leaves the restaurant unfazed. He never devotes a solitary moment to pondering the fact that he took an innocent man’s life.
Almost as unlikely is Lola’s blithe indifference to her new boss lying dead on the floor. Yes, it’s quickly established in Bob’s one brief scene that he’s maybe not the world’s nicest boss. Or maybe he’s just having a bad day (Lola is a replacement, working her first day, for the recently deceased Flo, who worked for him for 13 years).
Whatever the case, it’s difficult to accept that two otherwise sympathetic characters could possibly be so uncaring and unconcerned over this pointless murder (not to mention that it never factors into the plot mechanics, either). That quibble aside, One Day as a Lion remains worth spending 90 minutes watching on the strength of its other virtues. The Lionsgate DVD release (no Blu-ray for this title) includes a deleted scene as a bonus feature.