The HoloFiles

REVIEW: The Baker

By Josh Bate & George Bate

Describing the plot of a movie as ‘a reluctant hero learns to care for a young child in his care’ could be the synopsis for any number of films, shows, and books. The likes of The Mandalorian and Logan have followed stoic, hardened men, who lean into their soft sides as they come to love and care for a child under their protection. This trope dates back much earlier, notably to the acclaimed 1970 manga Lone Wolf and Cub, which followed a samurai warrior caring for his young son. And yet, despite the seemingly endless array of similar stories, the trope of a man protecting a child continues to appeal. 

The emotional resonance of this trope is evident, once again, in The Baker, an action movie starring Ron Perlman (Hellboy, Sons of Anarchy) from director Jonathan Sobol (The Art of the Steal, The Padre). The Baker follows a quiet, solitary man, who spends his days running a bakery while being haunted by a violent past. When his son (played by Avatar’s Joel David Moore) disappears and leaves his young daughter (played by young actress Emma Ho) with her grandfather, the baker goes to great lengths to find out what happened to his son and protect his granddaughter from the gangsters out to get her.

The Baker isn’t particularly innovative or original…and that’s entirely okay. The likes of Nobody starring Bob Odenkirk and A History of Violence starring Viggo Mortensen will surely come to mind while watching The Baker, a film refreshingly unpretentious in its presentation. It’s mere minutes into the film and the trajectory of the plot can be forecast with uncanny accuracy. And, still, this isn’t a problem and surprisingly doesn’t hinder enjoyment of a delightfully straightforward film. 

The Baker review

This is largely due to a winning lead performance from Ron Perlman, who makes a derivative film rise far above its generic roots. Perlman delivers a stern, minimalist performance as the titular baker, evoking his inner (insert any Lone Wolf-type character here) as a man who reluctantly returns to a life of violence to save the ones he loves. The empathy and connection that blossoms between Perlman’s character and his granddaughter, again, is far from unpredictable, but it’s dealt with enough care and genuine heart that it’s hard not to become invested in their collective story.

Side-by-side with Perlman is Emma Ho, who exceptionally plays the baker’s 8-year-old granddaughter Delphi. Delphi, like her grandfather, has a traumatic past that has rendered her non-verbal. Tagging along for her grandfather’s revenge mission, the silent Delphi is a source of humor and heart throughout The Baker. The young actress, who previously appeared in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds and The Expanse, proves she is a bright emerging talent to keep an eye on.

Less success, however, is found among The Baker’s more villainous characters. Elias Koteas (Zodiac, Chicago P.D.) plays Vic, a gangster with little-to-no personality. Koteas is a fine actor, but his performance here, essentially as the film’s most prominent villain, leaves a lot to be desired. Perhaps it was the direction from Jonathan Sobol or script by Paolo Mancini and Thomas Michael that led to The Baker having such a bland villain, but, regardless, the film would’ve greatly benefitted from a more magnetic antagonistic presence. The same, unfortunately, can be said for Harvey Keitel, who plays Vic’s boss. Despite featuring in some of the greatest films of all time across his immense filmography, Keitel is similarly bland and unenergetic here. The actor does the best he can do with extremely limited material at his disposal, again which speaks to the film’s strong handling of its heroes and poorer management of its villains.

The Baker review

It wouldn’t be a movie like Nobody, A History of Violence, Logan, or, now, The Baker if it didn’t have its fair share of violence and action. Surprisingly, however, The Baker is fairly light on action. When the action arrives, it packs a punch, perhaps best evidenced during an exciting hand-to-hand combat sequence set in the back of a truck. But the action is sparing and will likely leave eager action movie fans a little disappointed.

VERDICT: 7/10

The Baker is the latest in the seemingly endless stream of stories following a reluctant hero protecting a young child. In this one, a winning performance from Ron Perlman sees The Baker rise above its derivative roots, making it a worthy summer watch.

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