Spitfire

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“Imagine Tonya Harding playing Jason Bourne. Yep, it’s like that.”

This can only be described as a mess, albeit a crappily entertaining one, with a leading lady in Phillips, who almost made it to the Olympics, being described as “the next Mary-Lou (Retton)”, before trying her hand in low-budget action. She plays an international-level gymnast and martial-arts expert, whose parents are, unknown to her, involved in a plot involving the launch codes for Ukrainian missiles. The mother is killed by villainous Brit, Carla Davis (Douglas – apparently Jenny Agutter was unavailable. Or, more likely, too expensive), who wants to get her claws on the codes for some reason. Hey, she’s a villain: what more does she need? She captures Dad (Henriksen), but not before he has given his daugher the first in a series of clues which will lead her and investigative journalist Rex Beechum (Thomerson), apparently with an unlimited expense account, around the globe from Rome to Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong and Athens, bumping into various unexpected siblings along the way.

One senses this globe-hopping was largely funded by Pyun’s frequent flier miles, and he makes sure that we see enough of the actors that we know they were actually there – I suspect Henriksen was excluded, as he is never shown in anywhere that couldn’t be faked outside a studio, nor is he ever on-screen at the same time as Thomerson. Despite an opening credit sequence which is clearly trying to channel a seventies Bond flick (not least in the jet-pack with which Henriksen escapes the bad guys), this plays more like a distaff version of Gymkata, with significantly poorer production values, though at least Phillips doesn’t need to be doubled for the gymnastics scenes. There’s a bizarre subplot involving evil Romanians, which also appears to have strayed in from a Cold War era, and many, many chase sequences, which pause briefly for exposition, or Phillips to demonstrate her mediocre martial-arts skills. There’s certainly no shortage of things going on, even if the interest level of these often remains questionable. However, I’ll admit, I did laugh at the running joke which sees Beechum perpetually being knocked out by someone or other.

Thomerson and Henriksen could do this kind of thing in their sleep, and apparently did so here, though still lend the film an air of quality that it largely lacks otherwise, and Douglas makes for a decent villainess. Phillips is more problematic: after Betrayal, it was the second film of the day where we had a lead actress who wasn’t actually an actress, and it shows. I’m now fairly convinced that some kind of test should be required of anyone starring in a movie, and if you don’t pass, your artistic license gets revoked. Phillips, wisely, retired from acting there after, saving the world from further punishment – if, unfortunately, not further Albert Pyun movies.

Dir: Albert Pyun
Star: Kristie Phillips, Tim Thomerson, Sarah Douglas, Lance Henriksen

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