Career hitman Aaron Beckman (David A.R. White, God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness) has a change of heart and decides he wants out of the business, but that’s easier sad than done. After a deadly fight with another assassin, he finds his way to a Los Angeles church, where terminally ill veteran Reverend Phillip (Jeff Fahey, The Lawnmower Man) takes him in, attends to his wounds, and teaches him about his faith. When the reverend passes, Beckman takes over the leadership of the congregation, but struggles to connect with the parishioners. Just as he’s thinking about giving up, Tabitha (Brighton Sharbino, Miracles from Heaven), a drunken teenager with a troubled past, shows up at his doorstep. Beckman takes her in, cleans her up, and adopts her. His life is starting to look perfect, that is until some goons with guns show up at the rectory and kidnap Tabitha. It turns out that she had escaped from cult leader/human trafficker Reese (William Baldwin, MacGyver)— he has tracked her down and wants her back.
In order to get his daughter back and exact vengeance on those who took her, Beckman must return to the murderous life he thought he had left behind. Beckman begins his quest, making his way through the various layers of Reese’s human trafficking ring. However, he soon learns that The Network—the organization he used to work for—has put a contract out on him, and now he is also being hunted by several professional killers.
In short, Beckman is a lower budget, obvious homage (or rip-off) of Taken and John Wick. Like Taken, Beckman is an angry father whose daughter has been taken, and he uses his particular set of skills, stopping at nothing, to find her and bring her back. At the same time, like John Wick, Beckman is being hunted by fellow professional contract killers looking to claim the bounty on his head. In the audio commentary, the writer/director basically says that he took aspects from a bunch of his favorite revenge movies and put them together to create the general story for the film in about and hour. These two are just the main influence, and nods to many other revenge films, such as Man on Fire and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, can be seen throughout Beckman.
The film is broken into seven chapters, making use of flashbacks to delve into some of Beckman and Tabitha’s past and how they became father and daughter. In the audio commentary, the writer mentions that originally the project was being developed as a possible Facebook Watch series, and this was the reason for the short 12-minute chapters. This leads to some odd pacing for the film, which at first rapidly skips over years of time as Beckman meets and adopts Tabitha in the blink of an eye. Despite only having known Tabitha for less than two years, the relationship suddenly feels more like she has been his daughter her whole life. The film then slows down, with each chapter finding Beckman taking on a new set of enemies. It is like a video game, with Beckman advancing through each level of bad guys until he finally makes it to the big boss. Some of the early fights, such as the opening sequence, feel overly choreographed and more like set pieces than part of the overall story. In the audio commentary, the director talks about filming this first fight sequence and another one before any script had even been written, so that may be why—they just wanted a big fight sequence without actually knowing how the characters or action would even fit into the film. That said, the action sequences do seem to get better and more believable as the film goes along. The same goes for the acting, which starts off pretty poor, with lines delivered in a soft, monotone like way, with little emotion, almost like a narration or ADR afterthought.
The film features some recognizable faces, such as Jeff Fahey as the reverend who inspires Beckman to change his life, and William Baldwin, who chews the scenery as the campy and uber-creepy cult leader. But the most lively and fun characters are a male/female pair of assassins who are trying to kill Beckman in order to claim the bounty on his head (the female role played by WWE Diva Danielle Moinet)—I would watch a film about those two! While there is ultimately closure to this revenge story, the film also ambitiously sets itself up for a potential sequel.
Beckman comes from PureFlix, which is known for its more faith-based and family-friendly films. There are some faith-based elements to the film early on as Beckman finds Reverend Phil and God, and decides to change from his former life. Backman has these deep monologues with friend Salvatore (Burt Young, Rocky)—it’s never really explained who this guy is, but he serves almost like this God-like conscience for Beckman to bounce things off of. There is also one humorous scene shortly after Tabitha is taken, where it appears like Beckman is praying to God for help, only to have the camera circle around to reveal that he is in fact just on his cell phone. However, once Beckman starts his bloody quest for vengeance, he never really has much of a crisis of faith. The only person who raises this issue is teenage parishioner Tom (Jacob Melton, Zoe Valentine), but Beckman quickly scoffs this off and continues to mow down the bad guys. By the time Beckman finally has this crisis of conscience, it feels abrupt and more like a cop-out, like the filmmakers suddenly remembered that they needed to have this aspect in order to justify making a “faith-based” bloody revenge film, and didn’t know quite how to combine that with Beckman gunning down lots of people in his quest to find his daughter. As to any family-friendly aspect? Beckman is a contract killer, and does kill a lot of people, though the violence is a lot less graphic and gory than what you would see in a typical Hollywood blockbuster.
Despite the fact that the film was shot in 4K, Universal has only released this movie on physical media on DVD, so folks who wish to watch it in at least HD will need to go with the Digital version. The DVD picture quality was still quite good, just not as sharp as what I’m typically used to these days with everything being HD or 4K. The DVD’s audio presentation, on the other hand, was pretty disappointing. The dialogue is clear, but despite being a surround sound track, the audio was primarily focused in the center channel, with little use of the stereo or surround channels. The film’s score is also a bit lackluster and uninspired. The DVD disc comes packed in standard DVD keepcase with a cardboard slipcover. There is no digital copy included, but the disc contains an 8-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, a 6 minute blooper reel, and a feature commentary with the star and writer/director.
- 480i / Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
- Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1
- Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
- The Making of Beckman: Faith and Hope Amidst the Storm (8:07)
The cast talks about the premise of the movie, the characters, and what it was like working on the film. Includes behind-the-scenes footage, and interviews with stars David A.R. White (“Beckman”), Jeff Fahey (“Reverend Philip”), Brighton Sharbino (“Tabitha”), Lynette Dupree (“Abigail”), William Baldwin (“Reese”), Burt Young (“Salvatore”), and Danielle Moinet (“Isabel”).
- Beckman Bloopers (6:26)
Some fun moments with the cast and they deal with malfunctioning doors and props, missed cues, flubbed lines, accidental people in shots, distracting planes, and more.
- Feature Commentary (1:36:59)
Writer/director Gabriel Sabloff and executive producer/star David A.R. White provide an interesting commentary, discussing how the desire to do a revenge movie led to the idea for film, working with the various actors, shooting the action sequences, the filming process, some indie film-making tricks, the shooting locations and schedule, and more.
Beckman is a lower budget, indie Taken-meets-John Wick. The story will feel very familiar to anyone who has seen any of the multitude of big budget action revenge films that have come out over the past decade and a half. As a PureFlix film, it tries to work in some faith-based aspects, but these quickly fall to the wayside, becoming more of a straightforward action revenge film. While I would likely just re-watch Taken or Jack Wick instead of this, Beckman at least features violence that’s a little less graphic if those movies are a bit too gory, but this is certainly not your typical family-friendly faith-based PureFlix film (it feels like an odd choice for the company). For those who wish to own the movie, the DVD includes about 15 minutes of bloopers/behind-the-scenes featurettes and an interesting audio commentary. A rental is suggested before a blind buy.