Term Life is supposed to be a darkly comedic crime thriller based on the graphic novel of the same name. It stars Vince Vaughn as Nick Barrow a consummate screw up and petty criminal that plans and sells heists to the would be robbers. When one of them goes wrong, Nick finds himself in the crosshairs of the police, crooked cops and a ruthless drug lord. As in all films of this type, the lead character either has an estranged wife, daughter or family pet that is also at risk by the bad guys who want our hero to tell them what they want to hear. So the “good” guy is now on the lam and in Term Life’s case it is with his estranged daughter, Carrie (Hailee Steinfeld).
Term Life was directed by Peter (Ralphie from A Christmas Story) Billingsley and he has worked with Vaughn on several other projects, some good, some not so good. Term Life is nothing horrible, but it is assembly line filmmaking much like John Travolta’s latest film I Am Wrath. These two are interchangeable. The stars are likable enough and the stories are there but nothing is done to make them original or compelling. Everyone seems to be phoning this ins. The problem I had with Term Life is that is has a plethora of big stars at its disposal which include, the aforementioned Vaughn and Steinfeld, Jonathan Banks, Mike Epps, Bill Paxton, Annabelle Gish, Terrance Howard, Taraji P. Henson, Jordi Molla, Shea Whigham and Jon Favreau.
How can you have a cast like this and still come away with a bland and sterile film? Is it the source material? Well, the graphic novel’s author also wrote the script for the film, A. J. Lieberman. But there is nothing fresh or interesting that is happening on screen. Every scene is something rehashed from other and much better films than this. Billingsley’s direction is even enough but the breakdown is with the story and the script. Term Life is not funny enough to be considered a dark comedy, the action scenes are routine and the bad guys are not given much to do except scowl and look constipated. None of these characters are given much personality so I did not connect with any of them and there is nothing that happens that you will not see coming from a mile away.
Vaughn and Steinfeld are the focus of the film and their relationship is what keeps the film going, but there is nothing new added to this element. Everything is pretty standard fare, Carrie (Steinfeld) is bitter and angry at her dad for being a lout. They fight throughout the film but what are they odds they will be inseparable by the end? Vaughn and Steinfeld (especially Steinfeld) are the only bright spots of Term Life along with Jonathan Banks playing a former criminal gone straight who is Nick Barrow’s best friend. Banks adds some much needed heft to this very light film. Term Life wants to be hard edged but it ends up being a throwaway piece. Nobody embarrasses themselves but there is not one character that stands out as unique. Everybody is going through the motions, cashing a check and at our expense. I guess the opening credits stating this was a WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) studio film should have told me all I needed to know.
Term Life- ** out of 5
Term Life- Rated R for language and violence
Term Life- Run Time is 95 minutes
If you must, Term Life is playing in select theaters and On Demand. Check your local listings for times and locations.