Someone should have buried The Gardener in the backyard.
We’re in a veritable golden age of high-octane, low-budget DTV action flicks right now, with talented craftsmen like John Hyams, Isaac Florentine, and Jesse V. Johnson plying their trade here in the US, and guys like Julien Leclercq and Guillaume Pierre in France, amongst many others. Alas, there’s also always been a market for bottom-of-the-barrel garbage in the DTV scene, as aging stars cash easy paychecks and mysterious financial backers look for tax havens. All of which is to say that The Gardener, a new excremental flick that is soon to disappear into the furthest reaches of a streaming service near you, is less a feature film than a 90-minute money laundering scheme — one that somehow took three people to direct it (Scott Jeffrey, Rebecca Matthews, Michael Hoad).
If The Gardener has a reason to exist beyond the financial needs of shady Eastern European businessmen, it’s to showcase the (negligible) talents of Charles Bronson look-alike Robert Bronzi, a 63-year-old Hungarian cowboy who was “discovered” by a Spanish filmmaker who saw his face on a flier advertising a rodeo show. Whatever Bronzi’s real-life abilities might entail, acting is not one of them. Here, he is the titular gardener, maintaining the vacation home of a put-upon middle-aged couple and their teenaged children. he first half of the movie spends an interminable amount of time watching these people bicker, while Bronzi putters around in the background, occasionally muttering pearls of wisdom about the horrors of war and the joys of gardening (cultivating plants is cultivating life, you see). Unbeknownst to this extremely unlikable family, their deadbeat dad has placed the family business in a deep financial hole, and some mercenaries take the family hostage in the middle of the night to squeeze info out of him. Thank goodness The Gardener is here to clumsily take out each bad guy one by one, in a series of fight sequences not so much choreographed as embarrassingly glimpsed. Various stuntmen and women take turns wailing on Bronzi, who mostly stands there trying to pretend to look dazed before half-heartedly delivering a tepid punch or kick that sends his opponent flying to the ground. No-budget genre legend Gary Daniels shows up as the head honcho bad guy, who walks around showing off his sculpted physique and eventually goes mano a mano with Bronzi in a ludicrous final battle that finds both men moving so slowly you would be forgiven for thinking they were either underwater or trapped in molasses. Avoid at all costs.
Published as part of Before We Vanish | December 2021.