One Day as a Lion

J.K. Simmons as Walter Boggs in the action/thriller, ONE DAY AS A LION, a Lionsgate release. Photo courtesy of Lionsgate.

When I read the script for One Day as a Lion, it reminded me of late-’70s Woody Allen blended with the films of the ’90s, most notably Buffalo 66, where everyone who came on screen was colorful and worthy of their own film. Those are the kinds of films I’m interested in making, where story is secondary to the characters. This film is no exception. We hope that everyone enjoys the Jackie Powers experience.

John Swab, director

I was trying to think of how to describe One Day as a Lion and then I read John Swab’s directors statement, and he summed it up perfectly. The film is filled with colourful characters worthy of their own film and was 100% about the characters and their development. Unfortunately, I don’t feel the story was secondary, I feel it was forgotten. One Day as a Lion was interesting because there were so many beloved actors and they played such incredibly written characters, but the story was a mess. Individual scenes are fantastic, certain story lines are fun, but overall the film is two distinct stories with one very subtle tie-in. We really needed that bridge between the stories to be stronger and then this could have been a fantastic piece.

I think that part of the problem here is that the film doesn’t know what it wants to be. The synopsis calls it a crime-comedy, while the press kit calls it action and a thriller. The synopsis calls it an homage to Tarantino and the Coen brothers, while the director said it reminded him of 70s Woody Allen and 90s films like Buffalo 66. That’s where the chaos starts. Unfortunately, it doesn’t ever really settle.

Let’s setup the story and then talk about the actors. Jackie Powers (Scott Caan) needs money, so he agrees to go after Walter Boggs (J.K. Simmons) for a couple of mobsters. He fails in his mission and ends up abducting a restaurant waitress named Lola (Marianne Rendón). At this point, the stories diverge. Powers needs money, Lola needs money, and Lola’s mother Valerie (Virginia Madsen) is rich and dying. While the mobsters want their money back from Boggs and they go after him. They cross each others paths a few times, but ultimately the stories are relatively distinct without enough overlap to be a complete story. However, while the story wasn’t great, the characters and actors were, so lets talk about them.

I’m a huge fan of Scott Caan, so I was really excited to watch a film he wrote. The results, however, were, as I mentioned, disappointing because I just couldn’t see how the storied tied together. J.K Simmons has finally gotten some real recognition in recent years and he is a standout in every thing he does. His portrayal of Walter Boggs was impressive and I would likely line-up to see ‘The Walter Boggs Story’ in theatres. Caan should have put Simmons front and centre in the film. Then we have Frank Grillo. He wasn’t given the greatest character to play in the film, but he embodied the character so well. I used to think that Frank Grillo was a poor modern day replacement to the amazing action stars of the 80s and early 90s, but the more I see him on screen, the more I appreciate his performances and look forward to seeing what he does next. The reality is that Grillo is a solid, reliable action star and when you see his name, you know that you’ll at least have fun with the film. Wrapping up the male leads is Caan himself. Its his script, so it is no surprise that his character is front and centre, tying the two disparate storylines together. Caan gave everything to the character and Jackie Powers is my second favourite character in the film (behind Simmons’s Boggs). Unfortunately, the storylines diverge so early, that the lack of overlap is what gives that messy feeling I mentioned earlier.

When it comes to the female leads, we have to talk about Virginia Madsen. She has a smaller role as Valerie Brisky, a hospital-bound dying woman, but her performance is up there with Simmons. She was fantastic on screen. Madsen is one of my favourite type of actors… the type where they appear on screen and most people don’t know their name, but instantly go, “Oh… it’s the woman from …” and, with Madsen, there’s no shortage of possible fill-in-the-blank options. Next up is the actor that plays Valerie’s daughter, Marianne Rendón as Lola Brisky. I was not familiar with Rendón before this film, but she was brilliant as Lola and I look forward to seeing her in future films. Her character may not have been the most interesting in the film, but the character’s progression and growth were really fantastic to watch. Lola is a great example of how Caan is a great writer, even if he isn’t the best story teller, and Rendón really brings the character to life. The final female lead that needs to be mentioned is Taryn Manning, as Taylor Love, Jackie’s ex. Manning is a fantastic actor, but I feel like a lot of the time, she’s typecast into roles that remind me of her Orange is the New Black character. She has so much range, but once again she played the same type of character in this role. She’s one of those actors that makes me smile when I see her name in the cast list, because I know that I’ll enjoy her performance. I did find it amusing that as an on-screen couple, Manning and Caan, would have had the last names Love and Powers.

With less meandering and more concrete ties between the two distinct storylines, I feel like this could have been a 5-star film. With minimal changes to the script to just add a bit more crossover, this would have been a 4-star film. I wanted to call this a 2-star film, but the performances were too strong and the characters were too good, so I went with a 3-star rating on this one. I think that this is a great film to watch as a character study, but I wouldn’t check it out if I was looking for linear, connected storytelling.

One Day as a Lion was available in select theatres on April 4, and on Digital and On Demand on April 7.

One Day as a Lion

Movie title: One Day as a Lion

Movie description: One Day as a Lion is the story of Jackie Powers (Scott Caan), a nice guy but a lousy hit man, who’s sent to take out a crafty debtor (J.K. Simmons) but only pisses him off. Fleeing the scene, Jackie takes bored waitress Lola as a hostage. When Jackie reveals he needs money to get his son out of jail, Lola cooks up a scheme for them to get cash from her dying mother (Virginia Madsen). Meanwhile, a thug sent to kill him is sleeping with Jackie’s ex. Also starring Frank Grillo, this crime-comedy is a witty homage to Tarantino and the Coen brothers.

Date published: 2023-04-07

Director(s): John Swab

Actor(s): Scott Caan, Frank Grillo, Marianne Rendón, Taryn Manning, George Carroll, Virginia Madsen, J.K. Simmons

Genre: Crime

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