Reign in Hell is an American neo-noir action crime thriller written, directed and produced by Quentin Tarantino. It stars Jack Nicholson as Dr. Jake Finnegan, a surgeon and former bank robber who is called back into employment in order to destabilise a major American street gang. It stars Stanley Tucci as Colin Finnegan, Jake's illiterate brother, and Peter Dinklage as Mr. Hazard, the main antagonist of the film. The supporting cast consists of Ariel Winter, Dick Van Dyke, Chloe Grace Moretz, Rebel Wilson, Charles Dance, Scarlett Johansson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Samuel L Jackson and Michelle Rodriguez. The title of the film is a reference to the famous line from Paradise Lost 'Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven', spoken by Satan, the story's anti-hero.
The film was originally written by Quentin Tarantino with Stanley Tucci in mind as Dr. Finnegan, but Tucci instead recommended Nicholson upon reading the script and deciding that he would serve better as Nicholson's sidekick as opposed to the lead. The theme of the story was supposed to be the idea that a person's past may catch up with them, but they can still enjoy the nostalgia of said past. The film was released in March 2017 and was a critical triumph, with praise for Nicholson and Dinklage's performances, the story, camerawork, nostalgia and direction. It was a box office success, grossing $643 million in total.
The film begins with a young Jake and Colin Finnegan driving in separate cars to a huge bank complex in Michigan. Colin contacts Jake over the phone as they drive and they engage in a lively conversation that hints they've been apart for several years (Colin having only just escaped from prison for severe property damage during their last attempt at a bank robbery, during which they succeeded but Colin was arrested). They reach the bank and get out of their respective cars, before facing one another briefly, shaking hands almost in a businesslike way, and then swapping cars. In Jake's car, Colin smashes through the doors of the bank and brandishes a machine gun, demanding the residents fall to the floor. While Colin engages in a ferocious argument with Julie (Moretz), who is about to open up her own account, Jake poses as a security guard and hacks into the bank's online accounts, transferring them to a private account in Zurich. However, before he can properly transfer the money, a scar-faced man (Van Dyke) appears and shoots him in the back. Hearing his brother's screams, Colin rushes down and shoots at the man, but he escapes in Colin's car. The police arrive, but they are too late - Colin has completed the transferal and the two of them have escaped.
The bank is investigated by the police, led by Police Commissioner Clarence Salvatore (Jackson), who personally takes on the case for himself. He checks the CCTV and recognises only the scar-faced man as a notorious thug and hit-man called Gerold 'Gerry' Smith, a contact to several street gangs. Meanwhile, Jake and Colin are later seen in Zurich, with Jake working as a surgeon. He and his brothers are refraining from overusing the money they stole in order to elude detection. One day, they are approached by a woman named Bernie Paragon, who explains that she is a contact to a former employer of theirs - a Mr. Hazard, whom Jake warily remembers as a ferocious gangster who, the last time he heard, had been arrested and killed in prison. Apparently, having survived, Hazard wishes for the brothers to help take down a rival gang. In return, Hazard will use his considerable influence to deter the police investigation into them. Colin is extremely reluctant, but Jake accepts.
When they come with Bernie, they are waylaid when a street trickster steals their passports. She tries to make an escape, only for Jake to corner her and she introduces herself as Miranda Myers, whom Colin decides to take prisoner and to use her to get out of the country back to America. They sneak aboard a plane with Miranda forging passports and flight tickets to New York. When they land, however, Miranda waylays them into a taxi, which drives into an alley where a mob led by the anonymous Shane Sutler, Hazard's rival, is waiting for them. They are held at gunpoint, only for Gerry to appear and snipe down several of the mobsters. Jake drags Colin into cover and Miranda escapes in the chaos. Gerry drives the brothers into the back of the alley, but before he can kill them Bernie sets off a smoke grenade and uses it to help them escape into a fire exit, which leads them to a clubhouse where Hazard awaits them. He offers them five hundred million dollars for the bankruptcy and arrest/elimination of five known members of Sutler's gang. He refuses to divulge why he cannot do it himself.
On the way to the first target, Marco Charmaine (O'Neill), Salvatore arrives with a squad of police officers, along with his Lieutenant Clarice Shepherd. They pull guns on the brothers, only for Bernie to arrogantly underestimate whether they would shoot men in broad daylight - she shoots one police officer, which provokes his colleagues to shoot back at them. A firefight breaks out, during which Jake commandeers a minivan and uses it to barge through the police officers, collecting Colin and Bernie. Jake chastises Bernie, but is too focused on their escape to argue. They arrive at Charmaine's home, where they ambush him and hold him at gunpoint. Jake hacks into his computer and empties his accounts, and then demands to know what is going on between Sutler and Hazard - he knows it goes beyond the parameters of an average gang war. Before Charmaine can answer, Gerry appears at the door, breaks in and neutralises both brothers with knock-out gas. He confronts Charmaine, and in the ensuing conversation a barely-conscious Colin learns that Gerry works for Hazard. He retrieves his gun and aims it at Gerry, only for Gerry to pull a gun of his own and aim back. Choosing his life over his career in the gang, Charmaine tackles Gerry to the ground and Gerry shoots him in the head. The brothers try to escape, but Bernie is knocked unconscious by Gerry.
Salvatore is ferociously accosted by his boss, Police Chief Avery, for losing the brothers as they enter the country, but the argument is interrupted when Shane Sutler (Dance) enters the room, revealed to be a police governor himself, and nullifies the argument. He enlists Salvatore's help in bringing down the brothers and Hazard. He pretends to have been investigating Hazard for some time and knowing the nature of his establishment - his contact is a girl named Julie, who once worked for Hazard before she was arrested during a gang fight and recently released. Outside of the meeting, he instructs Julie to speak with a captive Bernie. She parleys with Bernie, wanting to know where the brothers are next heading. When Bernie proves arrogantly belligerent, Julie hands her over to Sutler, who has her sent to a maximum-security prison. With this done, Julie deduces that they will next go for former-identity thief Victor Janson (Stan). Sutler sends Julie to meet with him, along with her bodyguard Cara.
Janson is revealed to be waiting at a nightclub for Julie, having been warned by Sutler that he is under threat. Jake arrives first, though, and plays a heated game of poker with him, while Colin decides to extricate the money out of his accounts at the casino (Janson lets slip that he always puts every penny he has into the gambling, in the knowledge that the casino is rigged so he can win). The conversation between Jake and Janson turns sour when Janson begins to taunt Jake about the possibility of failing Hazard. Jake retorts by quoting Shakespeare - 'All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts' - he likens the nightclub to the stage, and Janson to that one man - he plays the gambler, the identity thief, billionaire, playboy and sycophant...he is soon to play the corpse, if he doesn't put down the gun that he is 'secretly' assembling under the table. The conversation is interrupted when Jake sees Gerry enter the casino. Gerry enters the game and inexplicably triumphs over both of them, revealing that he has already transferred all of the money - this explains why Colin is separately having trouble finding the accounts.
Enraged, Janson pulls the gun on Gerry and Jake pulls a gun on Janson, and suddenly Gerry produces two pistols and aims at both of them - a Mexican standoff. A suspenseful conversation proceeds between the two, during which Gerry persuades Janson to aim for Jake in return for being spared suffering. However, Jake retorts by trying to persuade Janson to shoot the chandelier above them, severing the standoff and giving all three participants the opportunity of taking fair ground in the inevitable fight. Suddenly, Julie arrives and produces a hand grenade which is powerful enough to destroy everyone in the room - nobody wins, unless they all drop their guns and allow Janson to come with her. Jake loopholes the standoff by shooting Cara, distracting all three other combatants - Colin arrives on the scene and tackles Janson to the ground just as Gerry aims at him. Jake and Gerry engage in a fearsome gunfight at opposite ends of the casino, until Salvatore and the police arrive and try to neutralise the combatants, only for Shepherd to accidentally shoot Janson while aiming for Colin.
Colin and Jake escape, pursued by Gerry. They elude the assassin by disguising themselves as homeless men, and Gerry returns to Hazard to explain that Janson is dead, but that Sutler knew their moves just as they were making them. Hazard deduces that there is a traitor in his operations and suspects Gerry, who has remained unscathed throughout this entire affair. The traitor is in fact revealed to be Miranda, who has been taking information from listening devices attached to Gerry's shooting stick. Miranda writes a duplicate of the conversation and sends it anonymously to Jake and to Salvatore. Jake and Colin have an argument about the true value of this mission they are on, with Colin arguing that they were in less trouble during the bank robbery than in the last few days. The argument is interrupted when Miranda arrives and greets the two of them - Jake, paranoid, attacks her and questions whether she is here to help them or to make trouble for them. Miranda introduces Shannon Crow, her cousin, who is already aware of the location of the last three targets - two of them are conveniently in the same place currently.
Jake and Colin go to Las Vegas, where they track two of the targets - Carmine and Sebastian Worthington (Braugher and Gooding Jr.), two notorious hitmen who have worked as the fists of Sutler's gang - to a deluxe hotel, where they shadow the two of them to a casino and engage in a poker game, in which the two of them triumph against the other opponents before the Worthingtons recognise them. Carmine reveals that they used to work for Hazard, and were used in the same way Hazard is using Jake and Colin, until Sutler extorted them into working for him. This is why Hazard wants them dead, and Jake discovers that Hazard will eventually persuade someone to go after him and his brother the same way Jake and Colin are being sent after the Worthingtons. Seeing that the conversation is going rapidly downhill, Shannon enters the game and trades barbs with the Worthingtons, offering to have them sent to Switzerland, out of both gang boss's reach, in exchange for the money in their accounts. Jake seconds this proposal, but Colin can tell that his brother is planning something else entirely. Just as the conversation climaxes, Sutler arrives with a ring of henchmen, including a thug named Mr. Archer (Wahlberg), who kills Sebastian with a shotgun. Just as Jake pulls a gun on Sutler, the entire population of that floor pulls guns on one another, revealing to all be either members of Sutler's or Hazard's gangs.
Sutler has both brothers held at gunpoint, and Julie transfers the money from the Worthingtons' accounts, as well as the whole of the casino. Jake and Sutler debate on being allowed to leave, and Sutler subdues Jake by having Colin alone held at gunpoint. However, Hazard and Gerry arrive as well, and Gerry shoots Shannon in the back. Sutler turns his attention to Hazard, and the two gangs face one another. After a very suspenseful argument, Hazard is offered the opportunity to leave with all of his gang, only if the Finnegan brothers are left for Sutler to deal with. Hazard feigns agreeing with this, before Gerry suddenly produces a machine gun and tears through many of Hazard's gang. Horrified by being outplayed, Hazard runs to escape and Jake pursues him. Colin tries to follow, but Julie shoots him in the leg, crippling him. She moves to shoot him to kill, but suddenly Miranda reappears and engages with Julie in a gunfight that ends with Julie shot in the chest. She covers Colin as they try to find a hiding place as the casino erupts into a gun battle between the two gangs. Colin calls for police aid and Salvatore, hearing this, leads the police as they make for the casino.
Jake pursues Hazard into one of the hotel rooms, where Hazard produces a sawn-off shotgun and aims for Jake. He is clearly confident that his gang will overpower Sutler's, and cites that both Jake and his brother, if they survive, will not make it out of the casino alive - they are wanted too badly by the police. Jake understands what Hazard is about to suggest, and Hazard proposes that Jake and his brother become permanent members of his gang, which he plans on reforming when he escapes from the ordeal. Jake retorts that he will not escape, and Jake would rather leave the place in a bodybag than in cuffs - he dodges Hazard when the man shoots for him, and produces a knife, throwing it straight for Hazard and killing him, citing he'd rather 'Reign in Hell than serve in Heaven'. Jake throws Hazard's body from a balcony into the casino floor, citing the end of the gang war. Enraged, Gerry shoots and kills Sutler, ending the battle. Colin and Miranda join Jake and they escape in Hazard's car. Gerry tries to pursue them, but the police arrive and surround him. Seeing the Finnegans escape in their car with the money, Gerry mutters 'You sick sons of bitches!' before being escorted away by the cops.
At an airport, Jake, reclaiming his title of Doctor, pays for a flight to Miami with his brother Colin and Miranda Myers. Before entering airport security, Jake tosses a bag containing his and his brother's disassembled guns into a trash can, indicating that they are both leaving behind their lives as criminals.
- Jack Nicholson as Dr. Jake Finnegan
- Stanley Tucci as Colin Finnegan
- Peter Dinklage as Mr. Hazard, the main antagonist of the film.
- Ariel Winter as Miranda Myers, a mischievous confidence trickster
- Dick Van Dyke as Gerold Sebastian Nicholas Montgomery Bartholomew Smith (Or 'Gerry' for short), Mr. Hazard's hitman.
- Chloe Grace Moretz as Julie
- Rebel Wilson as Shannon Crow, an ally of the Finnegan brothers
- Charles Dance as Shane Sutler, a rival gang boss to Mr. Hazard who is caught in a gang war with the latter.
- Scarlett Johansson as Bernie Paragon, an arrogant but efficient companion of Mr. Hazard.
- Maggie Gyllenhaal as Cara, Julie's bodyguard who is killed by Jake during the nightclub fight.
- Samuel L Jackson as Police Commissioner Clarence Salvatore
- Michelle Rodriguez as Lieutenant Clarice Shepherd, Salvatore's secondary.
- Ed O'Neill as Marco Charmaine, the first target of Jake and Colin
- John Barrowman as Police Chief Avery, Salvatore's superior.
- Sebastian Stan as Victor Janson, an identity thief and prolific gambler working for Sutler's gang.
- Andre Braugher as Carmine Worthington
- Cuba Gooding Jr. as Sebastian Worthington
- Blake Lively as airport supervisor
- Sarah Bolger as a gambler at Hazard's clubhouse
- Mark Wahlberg as Mr. Archer, one of Sutler's henchmen
- "Highway to Hell" by ACDC - Opening scenes
- "We Built this City" by Starship - Prelude to bank robbery
- "Perry Mason Theme" - The bank robbery
- "Easy lover" by Phil Collins - Miranda Myers' theme
- "Voulez-vous" by Abba - Hazard's clubhouse
- "Showdown" by ELO - The Mexican standoff
- "Smooth Criminal" by Michael Jackson - Gerry's theme
- "In the Air Tonight" by Phil Collins - Salvatore's theme
- "Thunderball" by Tom Jones - The casino firefight
- "Money, Money, Money" by Abba - Las Vegas
- "Changes" by David Bowie - The poker game
- "Bicycle Race" by Queen - The hotel chase scene
- "Feeling Good" by Cy Grant - "You sick sons of bitches!" and end credits