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After scary injury, Kelly Bryant returns with a vengeance in The Bryant Identity

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The Missouri cast and crew continue hot streak while Kelly Bryant delivers star performance.

The Bryant Identity

Directed By: Barry Odom

Starring: Kelly Bryant, Larry Rountree III, Jordan Elliott, Johnathon Johnson

Synopsis: After a string of mixed individual performances, the Mizzou Tigers team up to topple their peskiest foe and form a mighty team capable of greatness.

Rating:

One week ago, it looked like Kelly Bryant had been left for dead. One week later, he’s still the charming stealth assassin Missourians have come to know and love.

Kelly Bryant’s star turn in The Bryant Identity may not be the only thing that made this the fifth hit in a row for director Barry Odom. There’s plenty to like about this latest hit in a dynamite run of features. But Bryant is undoubtedly the centerpiece, the top billing — the glue that holds it all together.

The narrative starts from a dark place. After a game gone wrong, Kelly Bryant emerges from a scary leg injury all but buried by the people who saw it happen. Fans had started moving onto the playbook under the next quarterback. “Even if he avoids disaster,” the whispers went, “he’ll be down for the count for a good while.”

Bryant proves the doubters wrong. And while there are signs of rust in his return to form, he remembers his true self and turns in his best performance of the year, running swiftly from and through Ole Miss defenders, hitting targets with deadly accuracy and knowing when to step aside and let his teammates take the spotlight. And while the stealthy, underrated John Rhys Plumlee stalks Bryant and Missouri, trying to take them out when they’re least expecting it, Bryant ends up besting his foe, capitalizing on the openings he’s given and doing just enough to keep Plumlee at bay until the clock runs out on him.

The brilliance of the Bryant performance, then, is in its subtlety. It may be hard to notice what he’s doing in light of the context, but he’s quietly offering a steady hand for the audience to grab onto, occasionally flashing his brilliance. While it may be understated at times, it’s undoubtedly Bryant’s best performance, combing requisite star power and efficient screen time.

As mentioned, Bryant isn’t the only thing to love about The Bryant Identity. Despite losing star Cale Garrett before production began, Odom and assistant directors Ryan Walters and Derek Dooley were able to put together a solid supporting cast of A and B-list players. Jordan Elliott turns in his best performance as a Tiger, bulldozing through every obstacle in his path to cause disruption. Larry Rountree III puts up another workmanlike supporting turn — he’s almost never bad. Nick Bolton continues to shine in his hybrid lead-supporting role. Even lower-billed players like Joshuah Bledsoe get some good run.

And while Kelly Bryant is the star of this feature, the secret sauce is Dooley’s adept choreography. Almost all of Bryant’s moves are planned and executed with flawless precision: a bootleg here, a reverse there — Dooley earns high marks for his best work in the five-feature hot streak. Even when things don’t quite work, you get the sense that he’s holding back because the ending is already in sight. This isn’t always an excuse to go completely vanilla, but it’s understandable under the circumstances. In the end, the lows don’t take away from the highs.

Overall, it’s another big winner for director Barry Odom. The Bryant Identity is simple at heart — star quarterback seems to have been lost, ends up coming back and wreaking havoc on those who would keep him down — but it proves that audiences don’t need big pomp and circumstance. Give them a crowd-pleasing, action-packed thriller where the ending isn’t ever in doubt (but still offers some late suspense), and audiences will pack the house.