2 ½ stars
After watching the scum who raped and murdered his daughter get sent to prison for life, charter school wrestling coach Harry (Dermot Mulroney) tries to put the past behind him, tamp down his anger, and get back to his everyday life. But when a young woman from his team gets sold into white slavery by her abusive/alcoholic stepdad, Coach Harry turns into a modern-day Dirty Harry (without the badge) to rescue her and stop the bad guys.
There’s a lot to unpack watching Ruthless, from the strange opening where the grieving father proclaims that justice gets served when the bad guy gets found guilty to the final scenes where this high school wrestling coach goes undercover as a high stakes bidder in a Las Vegas sex trafficking auction. Trying to figure it all out to the point where it makes sense will only hurt your brain. Just sit back and enjoy the action.
Mulroney, who has been in almost every genre of movies in his 38+ year career, performs well as Coach Harry. His character is a man of few words, never smiles and relaxes from a hard day of coaching wrestling by boxing at his local gym. You get the feeling that he’s still full of raging anger over what happened to his daughter but has no way to express it or even a line or two of dialogue to explain it to the viewers. He just beats the crap out of people, and we accept it.
That sums up Ruthless. There are a few interesting performances to watch between beatings. Melissa Diaz is good as Catia, the student kidnapped, and Mauricio Mendoza is effective as the evil stepfather. There’s also a cameo appearance by Jeff Fahey as the leader of the sex trafficking auction hour that’s fun to watch, but only because it’s always fun to watch Fahey chew the scenery.
For the most part, though, we watch Harry pummel multiple guys and never consider whether he has the right to take the law into his own hands to such a degree. We’re like the cops in the movie who just stand around and let Harry do the dirty work. They just don’t cheer him on as much as the audience.