White Elephant is a straight-to-video action film that tries to do much with very little. It boasts the fact that it is one of Bruce Willis’ last roles on screen. And after learning about the actor’s condition while making some of the last films in his career, it really makes it apparent that he was being manipulated from behind the scenes. It makes for a sad watch when it comes to seeing the dying light of such a huge star.
Jesse V. Johnson directs the film the best he can, and he makes it somewhat cinematic, even if he doesn’t have all the resources he could wish at his disposal. The action is clean and direct, but there is just too little of it and instead, the film takes its plot and uses it as an excuse to move the characters around with no real sense of danger. White Elephant is a clear definition of a direct-to-video film, so it is for the best not to expect anything else from it.
The following paragraphs contain spoilers for White Elephant’s plot and characters, so read at your own risk.
What Happens In White Elephant?
White Elephant is a crime-action thriller and the first thing it does is introduce us to the character of Gabriel, a mob enforcer, who is clearly having a sort of moral conflict within himself. The first time we see him is visiting his late wife’s grave, he looks sad and thoughtful. Later he has a meeting with Glen Follett, a criminal lawyer. They both work for Arnold Solomon, the local mob boss. They discuss some future business and then say goodbye.
We see one of Solomon’s hitmen, Carlos, kill another Mob boss, named Luis Velasquez. Carlos is young and talented and follows Gabriel everywhere. Gabriel says to Carlos that he is sort of training him to be his replacement once he is gone. Carlos seems to have a lot of respect for Gabriel, although, Carlos does seem a bit naive to be around this sort of job.
Meanwhile, the police are keeping tabs on Solomon and his business. We are introduced to officers Vanessa and Walter as they see Carlos coming out of killing Luis Velasquez. A huge explosion destroys the building and evidence after him. Vanessa and Walter get caught in the midst of the explosion.
Meanwhile, Gabriel is having a meeting with Solomon. They have been friends for years and years, and they trust each other. Solomon is having troubles with the Russians and charges Gabriel with taking care of the issues and smooth out the situation. Solomon seems isolated and paranoid, as if he knows someone is out to get him. Gabriel promises he will take care of the Russian problem and also take the police out of their backs.
Some men appear at Walter’s house and kill him. Gabriel and Carlos don’t know who is after the killing, but they need to be careful. Meanwhile, Vanessa visits Walter and finds out that he is dead, he goes to her house to pick up some things, but she is ambushed. Vanessa manages to save herself and kills her enemies. She shuts herself up in a motel room, and waits for things to die down, someone is clearly tying some loose ends.
Gabriel goes home to rest and dreams about her wife and the life they were preparing to have together. At that moment, Gabriel receives a call, someone attacked Solomon in public while having dinner with his wife. Solomon’s wife is dead. Gabriel runs to the hospital and there, Solomon gives the order to kill another local mob boss, thinking he was the one who gave the order for his assassination.
Carlos and Gabriel discuss how Solomon might be losing it, they are going to kill another mob boss, basically kicking the hornet’s nest for no reason, but orders are orders. They do their job and kill the mob boss, and then they say goodbye to each, waiting for retaliation. Gabriel thinks about Solomon not being reliable anymore and about his life, and decides to change things.
What Does The Title White Elephant Mean?
A bunch of armed men launched an attack on Vanessa’s motel room, she manages to survive, and thankfully, Gabriel makes an appearance, and they escape together. Solomon calls Gabriel and demands an explanation. Gabriel demands that they should be left alone, and that they won’t cause trouble for Solomon. However, the mob boss won’t accept any betrayals and launches an attack on Gabriel’s house.
Gabriel and Vanessa fortify the house and prepare for the attack. A cop and a mob enforcer working together, who would have thought. Gabriel explains how he is tired of it all. And how he needs to fulfill a promise he made to his wife, to use his abilities for good and protect the White Elephants of the world, all those precious unique things that need protection.
Solomon’s men attack the house, including Carlos. Teacher and student face each other, with Gabriel killing Carlos. Such a waste. Vanessa and Gabriel shoot their enemies down and survive the night. Vanessa leaves Gabriel to go, knowing he has a genuine change in his ways. They say goodbye.
Later we see Solomon doing interviews, trying to find a replacement for Gabriel. However, he is killed during one of the interviews by a mysterious man. The man says, “This is for Luis Velasquez” before shooting Solomon dead. Meanwhile, we see Gabriel in the jungles of Africa, protecting the animals from hunters. He disperses his wife’s ashes during an African sunset.