Retro Review: The Wraith

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Hey everyone, do you like cars? (I guess so) Do you like revenge? (It’s best served cold?) Do you like the cheesy over the top villains in traditional 1980s movies? (heck yeah) Well, my friends, do I have a treat for you (do you really?).

On Netflix, while browsing, I came across the movie, The Wraith staring Charlie Sheen. I have never heard of this film but it seemed as though it has all the elements of some cheese and some action that has since become synonymous with action exploitation movies from the 1980s. It has all the tropes that would make for some good riffing and some interesting premises. Does the movie have any appeal for the modern day audience who are looking to chill? Or is it a time capsule that shows outdated premises and tropes that should best be left back in the 1980s or at least leave just for The Expendables. We’ll be analyzing the plot, the action sequences and if the Netflix viewers would enjoy this movie. Lets rev those engines and prepare for the big explosions as we delve into the movie, The Wraith.

The plot of this movie is one-part Knight Rider, and one part The Crow (which wasn’t even created yet) mixed together in a 1980’s movie. The movie is about a man who comes back from the dead to avenge his murder by killing those who were responsible in a drag race using this really awesome sick car that is jet black and just pure 1980’s futuristic design. The first scene we meet the villain of the movie, Packard, and his gang of street thugs who use drag racing as a means to steal peoples cars. He has the 1980s villain name with its pretentiousness, he doesn’t show remorse for any of his actions, and he has his gang of flunkies who do everything he says because they’re afraid of him. Packard, congratulations, you pass the 1980s villain tropes. You are everything this movie needs in a villain with zero likability. You are there to just make the hero look like a saint. Awesome. Packard controls the life of his girl Keri (she doesn’t want to be his girl) and he is always talking about his love for her and if he cannot have her, no one will.

Well, Charlie Sheen enters the picture as the new guy in town and he turns the gangs life upside down with Charlie “stealing” Keri from Packard and him wanting to hunt and kill Sheen. The pacing of the movie has a steady beat of the drum, with the expositions of different characters, flashback scenes, montages and the ultimate racing action sequences. Everything in the movie has a steady pace without anything seeming too sudden or anything coming really out of left field. It all has a steady build up to the final scene, which sadly for me, doesn’t live up to the build up. Without spoiling anything in the movie, Packard and the masked driver have been playing their game of chess and when its Packard’s turn, it kind of feels flat. I am hoping for this big showdown, two alpha males flexing their guns and having something special, but, it was every other action scene without it being the final boss. It is a letdown in terms of the hero facing the villain and it sadly doesn’t work.

The action sequences are okay for a low-budget action movie. The drag racing scenes are actually pretty awesome. They’re not overly done with ridiculous stunts (Fast and the Furious franchises) and it shows that this is probably what real drag racing would feature in a real life situation. No one is going to do crazy tricks on a road when you need to focus on driving straight and avoid the twists and turns of the Arizona peaks and cliffs. The explosions are also nice as well. When cars collide with each other or fall off a cliff, the explosions work because it wasn’t done with computers but rather exploding real cars. Those kind of realistic stunts and explosions are missed in today’s cinema because everything nowadays uses CGI and don’t want to create a safe working set with real explosives.

The question now is whether this movie would work for the Netflix audience in the modern time? That’s a tough question to ask. I think it would do well with audiences if they do enjoy 1980s action tropes and the traditional villains with no redeeming factor in their characters. The movie on the whole is relatively harmless as a whole. No one will get offended by it, and it doesn’t deal with any harshness in society or have any kind of political statements. It has some fun, some action, realistic explosions and a really awesome soundtrack of some great hair metal bands. The movie is good for a nice movie marathon of action movies or the low budget kind, and it has enough fun to not be bored by and not enough silliness to riff it the whole time. It has a little bit of everything for the action movie fan.