Retired gangster Charly Matteï (Reno) lives the quiet life in Marseilles, spending time with his wife and two children. But when he's ambushed in a carpark by an old friend and left for dead with 22 bullets inside him, payback is on the agenda.
It may carry Luc Besson's name above the credits, but despite the intentions of the English-language marketing campaign, this isn’t the spiritual cousin to either Taken or Leon; in fact, Besson was a late assist to Richard Berry’s adaptation of Franz-Olivier Giesbert’s based-in-truth gangster tome L’Immortel. Reno, though, is his typically towering self as Charly Mattei, a recently ‘retired’ senior Marseilles gangland enforcer who is gunned down, but survives the nearly two dozen shells he is plugged with. With Casino levels of violence, 22 Bullets moves uncomfortably from slow-burning gangster tale (as he spends half of the film trying to figure out who shot him) to balls-out action romp (with below-par car chases), forging a curiously uneven cocktail that, if not for its Eastwood-esque lead, would be a completely crushing disappointment.
Despite being based on a true-life Marseilles gangland story and a towering Reno turn, Richard Berry's thriller is an uneven stew of character development, violence and sub-Top Gear car chases. Disappointing.