May 16, 2023

ONE DAY AS A LION: Saved By Its Characters

2023 / 87 min
Review by Stinky the Destroyer😽

You gotta admire J.K. Simmons’ worth ethic. He’s been in some huge films over the years, but even after nabbing an Oscar for Whiplash, he’s not above appearing in comparatively minor efforts like One Day As a Lion. Hell, the guy still enjoys doing commercials. Either he is completely egoless or simply loves to act.

Ditto Frank Grillo. In my opinion, he could probably write his own ticket as a major action hero, yet in-between blockbusters, he still does a slew of low-budget, direct-to-video potboilers, many of them cranked out by the Cannon Films of the 21st Century, Grindstone Entertainment (as this movie was). So either Frank can’t hang onto his money or, he too, simply loves to act.

Whatever the case, both have sizable roles in One Day As a Lion, though Scott Caan (who also wrote the screenplay) is the actual star. He plays Jackie Powers, a dimwitted ex-boxer who becomes a hitman hoping to get enough money to hire a lawyer and free his incarcerated son. Unfortunately, he botches his first job, which was to kill Walter Boggs (Simmons), a cranky old farmer who owes a gambling debt to local thug Pauly Russo (Grillo). 

Accidentally shooting a diner owner instead, Jackie takes disgruntled waitress Lola (Marianne Rendon) as a hostage. But since she's also financially strapped, Lola suggests they pretend to be engaged in order to coax cash from her rich, dying mother (Virginia Madsen). Meanwhile, Pauly orders the guy who hired Jackie in the first place, childhood friend Dom (George Carroll), to find and kill him. As for Walter…he flat out refuses to pay Pauly the money he owes.

"Fine, Scott, you're a mind-reader. I'm thinking about bagels."
There are other complications and subplots, some of which are interesting, while others are somewhat implausible. Overall, the film strives for a loose, quirky tone similar to a Coen Brothers movie. It isn’t particularly successful in that respect. Simply having Grillo’s character try to single-handedly break The Big Lebowski’s record for f-bombs is a comparatively simplistic attempt at humor.

Still, the characters make One Day As a Lion watchable. Jackie is a fairly endearing protagonist, partially because he’s likably self-deprecating, but also because his heart is in the right place. He’s well-played by Caan, giving a congenial performance that occasionally reminded me a little of his old man (RIP). Though Grillo is somewhat wasted in a thankless role, the other supporting characters and performances are engaging as well.

Though leisurely paced and seldom as funny as it often tries to be, One Day As a Lion is just entertaining enough to keep our attention for 90 minutes. The film isn’t a gold star on anyone’s resume and most viewers are likely to forget about it shortly afterwards, but it’s kind of enjoyable in the moment.




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