Gasoline Alley is the sort of direct-to-VOD dreck co-starring Bruce Willis that, a year ago, would’ve made it onto lists of the actor’s better paycheck-collecting performances — before it was announced that his recent string of odd roles was partially due to an undisclosed aphasia diagnosis that has since led him to retire. Nobody is going to write one of those listicles again anytime soon. It’s not nice to poke fun at someone just doing their job when facing down a terrifying personal situation, and I’m not going to do that here, either, except to say that this is probably one of those better roles. It was nice to see him again. That’s not to say the movie is any good.
Alley stars Devon Sawa as Jimmy Jayne, an ex-con tattoo artist framed for a murder he didn’t commit. Quite a few murders, actually. One night after work, he hits it off with Star (Irina Antonenko), a girl just looking to make it in Los Angeles. Star ends up in a trailer full of other dead dreamers, with a lighter for Sawa’s parlor on her person. Detective Bill Freeman (Willis) and his partner, Freddy Vargas (Luke Wilson), immediately suspect Jimmy given his priors, but Jimmy is not one to take that kind of stuff sitting down. He starts his own investigation and ends up uncovering the sort of conspiracy we’ve all seen a million times before.
For what it’s worth, Sawa is fine as Jayne and works overtime to give the hardboiled hero a little more character than the script provides. Willis is noticeably present but rarely the focus of his scenes until the very end, when his presence elevates a standard villain role. Wilson is, well, he’s pretty much just Luke Wilson as a detective, but it’s pretty funny when another cop describes his incompetent character as the “worst detective in the city.” There’s something to the idea of a hero being aided by a cop who can’t tie his shoelaces straight, but that isn’t what Gasoline Alley is about.
Instead, it’s just the standard convoluted mystery thriller about a decent guy hunting for the truth about murdered women while a vast conspiracy unfolds around him. He gets in some scrapes, saves a few people and ultimately kills the bad men who hurt both him and the woman he wants to avenge. The twists and turns of the plot aren’t particularly intriguing or memorable. What makes Gasoline Alley notable at all are the actors collecting a paycheck on it, and the fact that all three of them retain some level of performance amid the uninspiring material.
The movie is already available on Hulu, but it’s the type of movie you briefly pause on to check out the cast before moving on to something more interesting.