Review by Dan Skip Allen
Bruce Willis has had a rough decade or so. In recent memory, he's pretty much been acting in the action movie of the month club. He was nominated for six Razzie Awards for the films he did in 2021. Gasoline Alley had a bit more clout than many of his other movies. It's about time he goes back to doing good work instead of phoning it in each film he's been doing recently.
Jimmy Jayne (Devon Sawa) is a tattoo artist in Los Angeles. He decided to visit a strip club because of his mother, a dancer in the past. He meets a dancer named Star (Irina Antonenko). The next day, two detectives named Freeman (Bruce Willis) and Vargas (Luke Wilson) come to visit him at his tattoo parlor called Gasoline Alley and try to pin the murders of four girls, including Star, on him. Sawa tries to figure out how he's been railroaded.
This has a very good story of a wrong man in the wrong place. It's a classic trope in Hollywood. It's been done many times before, with North by Northwest starring Cary Grant being my favorite of them all. These types of stories lend themselves to mystery, action, and suspense. The noir and investigative aspects of the film set it apart from other low-budget fare. Sawa is pretty good in the movie. This story was meant for his acting sensibilities.
The film has some pretty average filmmaking style to it except for the film's opening scene. It had a moody atmospheric fade in a shot of Sawa sitting at the strip club bar, creating the illusion that he was the man that killed the girls. The rest of the film is pretty straightforward. It has story beats that go in one direction while the actual mystery goes in another direction. It's classic noir storytelling.
The acting in the film is okay, but not great. The three leads, including Willis, have played this game for a while now, so it's old news for them. They are going through the motions as long as they've been experienced actors. A good murder mystery can get the creative juices flowing, and even veteran actors like these can get into the story and possibly give better-than-average performances. Is it the best-acted film ever? No, but these guys do pretty well in some throwaway roles.
Gasoline Alley had a cool title and a better-than-average story, even though it's one we've seen in Hollywood films for decades now. A classic noir mystery thriller is always something worth seeing if it's done right. Sawa, Willis, and Wilson are all okay in the film. They don't need to be great to get this story across to the public. The public just wants something exciting and engaging to watch. This film is a quick 100 minutes long and doesn't waste much time getting down to the business of telling the story.
Gasoline Alley is now available on VOD.