The Job

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“What Elle Driver did before joining DIVAS? Might explain why she hates The Bride…”

If I ever become an assassin, I will never utter the words “last” and “job” to anyone – it’s just begging for trouble. Hannah plays cold-hearted assassin CJ, who is supposed to recover 20 kilos of drugs stolen by Troy (Renfro), before he can sell them on. Only to do so, she must kill Emily (Swain), Troy’s heavily-pregnant girlfriend, and CJ’s qualms take over there, because she’s just discovered she too is expecting (a likely inevitable result of her fondness for casual sex with strangers). Angst, rebellion and an excruciating scene involving a hot bath and a coat-hanger follow, before a final showdown which had Chris snorting derisively about male scriptwriters and their wildly inaccurate concepts of childbirth. I’m not arguing: partly because Chris has been through pregnancy twice and I haven’t, and partly because even to me, the finale seemed pretty implausible.

I was expecting an action film, but CJ spends more time agonising over her state than shooting people. Meanwhile, Emily and Troy appear to be rehearsing for an appearance on Jerry Springer, and there’s an entirely unnecessary subplot where CJ and a former priest(!), played by Eric Mabius, have a unconvincing relationship. If the scripting leaves a lot to be desired – particularly at the end – both Hannah and Swain are convincing, and Alex Rocco is excellent as CJ’s boss Vernon, bringing a creepy power to his role; the other male cast members are largely left in the dust. Despite some shallow psychology (her mother was a prostitute, ergo CJ is all screwed up), there are interesting parallels between CJ and Emily, which could have been explored further. While the overall execution leaves a good bit to be desired, it’s not entirely without merit as a take on the usual ‘final mission’ cliches – especially if you think of it as a minor planetoid in the Kill Bill universe.

Dir: Kenny Golde
Star: Daryl Hannah, Brad Renfro, Dominique Swain, Eric Mabius

My Wife is Gangster 2: Return of the Legend

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“Improved comedy countered by disappointing action sequences, yet still worth watching.”

Everyone’s favourite scissor-wielding mobsteress Cha Eun Jin (Shin) is back, in a follow up to one of the biggest hits in recent Korean cinema. Starting with a rooftop brawl set to White Christmas, there’s no hanging around here: Eun Jin falls from the roof, loses her memory, and we leap forward two years. She is now living with a restaurant owner (Park), and regularly resorts to desperate measures, usually involving electricity, to remember who she is. However, as her foes first time round have plans to build a mall in the area, and her step-daughter is getting bullied at school, no prizes for guessing that memory’s gonna be jogged, sooner or later…

If the comedy aspects succeed better at the second attempt, the action is disappointingly brief, barely an afterthought. This is best illustrated by Zhang ZiYi’s cameo: just as the two ladies get to grips, the film abruptly ends, leaving you with a bad case of premature anticipation. The middle 90 minutes are still entertaining (not least because of the inept enemy gang she faces, who seek revenge, yet first want to be sure she knows who they are!), but the potential of the various plot-threads is never extracted, and one also wonders why there’s little mention of the husband from the original. It does, however, remain lots of fun, though it’s essential to have seen the first. Otherwise, you’ll wonder why that woman is shaking her boobs at our heroine, and calling her “Honey”…

It’s more than slightly reminiscent of one of my favourite HK films of all time: God of Gamblers, where Chow Yun-Fat suffered a similar bout of amnesia. Shin has charisma, yet not quite to the same degree as Chow, and much like its predecessor, Gangster 2 flirts with greatness, before coming up fractionally short. If any third installment starts with the Shin/Zhang battle teased here, it’ll be for the better. We’ll probably be in line for it, regardless.

Dir: Cho Jin-Gyu
Star: Shin Eun Kyung, Park Joon Gyu, Jang Se Jin, Lee Won Jong

Adrenalin: Feel the Rush

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“A more appropriate title – Valium: Feel the Pillow”

I’m still trying to work out what the title actually means; it certainly bears no relevance to the film. More generaly, the biggest point of interest is its similarity to Blade 2, which took the basic concept (hunt for the carrier of a virus that turns its victim into bald, psychotic bloodsuckers) and did a lot more with its Eastern European setting. Henstridge is Delon, a policewoman who has her partner dismembered while they search a house, and Lambert leads the backup team – they follow their target into some vents which connect to an old prison, and where they rapidly become the prey. All this is set just outside a post-apocalyptic (plague, specifically) Boston – though the cop cars have ‘POLICIA’ on them. There’s also a subplot about Delon’s son, and a black-market passport she bought for him, which is of no significance whatsoever, and is probably there only to get the running time up to feature length (and at 76 minutes, only barely!).

Shot in what looks like four rooms, it’s up to director Pyun to make the most of a higher-profile cast than he usually manages – unfortunately, he fails, though I liked the snap-zoom technique applied to bullet hits. This is straightforward ‘spam in a tunnel’ cinema, with little tension, character, or anything else that might elevate this above the mundane. Henstridge, bless her, does what she can, and comes over like a grubby version of Lara Croft; her undeniable action heroine potential has so far been wasted in stuff like this or the lame She Spies. Partly shot in the capital of Herzegovina, Mostar, the “just-bombed” look is likely genuine, from a conflict that only ended the previous year; it may be exploitative, but at least Pyun brought employment to the locals. I imagine he’s now scouting locations in Kabul and Baghdad.

Dir: Albert Pyun
Star: Natasha Henstridge, Christopher Lambert, Norbert Weisser, Elizabeth Barondes