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8/14/2003 - Got sucked into it last night and didn't break free, so pardon me if this review is a little crankier than most.

Is this screenwriter Shane Black's swan song?  Only time will tell.  The movie is a twin of 'The Last Boy Scout' although it lacks the lustre of that movie.  One could make a career out of comparisons of the two scripts (wishful thinking on my part?).  As with Lethal Weapon there's the white and black co-protagonists.  The white protagonist had some special action movie star training in their past (Bruce Willis an ex-Secret Service man).  They get entangled in an extremely diabolical and clever plot that gives one pause.  I believe here it was something about getting funding for the CIA's anti-terrorist programs by blowing up something really good.  Unlike Lethal Weapon, however, the daughter of the white protagonist gets involved.  Maybe Shane had a kid while he was writing Boy Scout or something.  And, of course, the movie title is explained at some point in the script.

Director Renny Harlin is Finland's answer to James Cameron, or is it Paul Verhoeven, I forget which.  However he may still be doomed to be haunted by that critique that he only does an adequate job directing his movies.  Driven, for example, but at least Long Kiss Goodnight is a little more interesting.  I'd be more apt to see the latter again than the former.  Put LKG in the So Bad It's Good column if you will, but not too high up.

Some of the action set-pieces are way too staged.  Take for example where the two leads run out of the third story of a building.  One might be tempted to say they take the Action Movie Solution to an Action Movie Problem: a grenade.  They jump out the window (I think it gets shot out first, which is always a smart thing to do to a window before you jump through one.  Always better to break a window with a bullet rather than with your face) and are going to land on an icy lake, so Geena Davis' character uses the machine gun to shoot a hole in the ice.  Now most action movies stretch credulity a little bit, but scenes like this go too far and risk alienating your more serious action movie fan.  The part where Geena Davis ice skates across the lake, however, will definitely stick with me, if only because of its bizarre-ness.  Was the film competing with the Winter Olympics at the time?  Actually, I was kind of relieved, and pleasantly surprised, because I thought for sure she was going to use the ice skates as knives and/or stabbing weapons.  

Another risk taken by the filmmakers is in the violence against Geena Davis' character, but I found myself finding that the risks don't pay off.  The scene where she throws her daughter into the treehouse, for example, was a bit much, and seemed against character, if such a thing can be said about a movie like this.  And I didn't like seeing her getting punched in the big action scene in the kitchen, or getting dunked at the Daedalus farmhouse (an ode to Lethal Weapon 2, perhaps?)  Perhaps she was ultimately wrong for the part, but who else would want to play it?  I want a list, damn it!  I want names!  Maybe they should have had Susan Sarandon in the Samuel Jackson role, heh heh...

An interesting supporting cast.  Craig Bierko bug-eyes his way through the movie's Uber-Villain role, and for that he now does stand-in work for Ben Affleck.  Brian Cox would probably like to forget about this one, but he's a hoot to watch here.  Hard to say he's the comic relief in a movie like this.  Cox's character provides the I.Q. test of the movie with a scene of Quick Deduction that I may have to look at again, where he and Henessey figure out just who David Morse's character really is.  And, just in the nick of time, too!  Well, almost.  (spoiler)

I was going to resist saying anything about the whole husband-and-wife connection that's been driven into the ground.  Dare we say it's more interesting than the film?  Ren and Geeny at the time were kind of like Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, but you got the feeling there was more at stake.  Geena's performance at times gave you the feeling that she's not yet over Jeff Goldblum, and it's a testament to the strength of Renny and Geena's marriage that Renny didn't tell her to cut it out.

I'm probably the wrong guy to review this movie.  Hollywood has since tried to even things out on the Action Hero score.  More women are kicking ass in the movies these days; is Charlie's Angels 3 on the horizon yet?  Since this movie seems to be geared more for the chicks, what do the chicks think?  Or is it that there are more sensitive men out there who want to see a strong woman in the Action Hero lead?  As long as it stays in regular rotation on cable, these questions might occur to people, if only around the dinner table at Thanksgiving.


Time of Transition: Applies better to Samuel L. Jackson's character.  We first see his system for staying in business, and then we have the episode that will significantly change his life, or at least occupy the whole rest of the movie for him.  Check that dialogue; yes, we remember he was in Pulp Fiction.

Inside Track: Does the audience learn something from all this?  Does Shane Black have friends in the CIA?  He can fake it pretty good, anyhow.  Sadly, the CIA's still reeling from the fall of the Russian Empire, and the leaking of Valerie Plame by Karl Rove, and they still can't make a go of it in the private sector.  They do have nice tastes in houses, though.


-so sayeth the Movie Hooligan

(c)2003 Bulk Entertainment

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