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“Come to sunny Trinidad! Enjoy the beaches! And kill people!”

I think it may be more infuriating to see a film that could be great, but blows its chance, than one which falls short in every aspect. Such is Backlash, a film with enough potential to flirt with greatness, before settling for mediocrity. Let’s start with the good stuff. Danielle Burgio is a stuntwoman, who doubled for Carrie-Anne Moss in the Matrix sequels, and it’s a striking resemblance – especially when the producers here pull Burgio’s hair back, and deck her out in a black tank-top (below, left). She has presence, agile grace and undeniably looks like she can kick butt. I was also amused by the two assassins on her tail: one (Levrone) is tall and taciturn, the other (Kim) short and feisty, and they’re a fun combination to watch.

In the middle lies the action. While some fights work nicely, too often (particularly between Burgio and Kim) they are an obvious sequence of blocks, with blows having no impact – some parts of the car chases are clearly shot at an extremely sedate pace. The script is nothing special either; I hoped a woman, writer Caitlin McKenna, could bring fresh aspects, yet the story here is tired and old. CIA agent Skye Gold (Burgio) is compromised, targeted for death and forced on the run, leading to the usual “Who can she trust?” issues we’ve seen a million times before. There’s little new here of note; the film, indeed, largely abandons Gold for a lengthy chunk in the middle, deciding to focus on the assassins’ approach to the base where she’s hiding out.

It is, however, the lumpy, leaden direction that kills this, the sense of pacing wrecked by frequent cuts to what feels painfully like stock footage from the Trinidad & Tobago Tourist Board. The use of badly-fitting music jars too, and works against the film, distracting rather than enhancing atmosphere. It seems the aim is something Andy Sidaris-esque, putting an action heroine in an exotic location to get chased by bad guys, but the results here seem much more forced and artificial (and if anything, increases my respect for Sidaris – whatever his flaws, the style is very easy to watch). I’ll happily keep an eye on Burgio whose career, with the right project, could explode; this, however, is definitely not it.

The DVD is available from MTI Home Video on November 21st; it’s in widescreen and includes a behind-the-scenes featurette and a music video.
Dir: David Chameides
Stars: Danielle Burgio, Robert Merrill, Kevin Levrone, Lauren Kim

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