Innovative Hong Kong action director John Woo helmed this feature-length TV pilot about a tough bodyguard and his dangerous lifestyle. Though it boasts several rousing action sequences, the film is sabotaged by lackluster acting, thin characterization, and a derivative story line.
When the daughter of casino owner Bobby Stern (Peter Keleghan) is threatened by a mobster who wants a piece of his lucrative business, he calls on his old friend Jack Devlin (Dolph Lundgren), a US Marshall turned professional bodyguard. Taking Stern's nine-year-old daughter Casey (Padraigin
Murphy) under his wing, "Uncle Jack" fends off an attack of her home, but in the process, is temporarily blinded by a "white-light grenade" and now freezes up at the sight of the color white. When Casey's father is later murdered by the mob, she moves in with Devlin.
Devlin's next assignment involves guarding supermodel Cinder James (Kam Heskin) from an obsessed killer (Phillip MacKenzie). After initially turning down the job, he changes his mind after his buddy, US Marshall Hastings (Fred Williamson) is almost murdered while in her company. Soon, Devlin earns
Cinder's confidence as he saves her from yet another murder attempt, this time by hitmen on motorcycles.
Realizing that Cinder has something to hide, Devlin interrogates her until she finally admits that the assassin pursuing her is actually her ex-husband, who's enraged by her success as a model. Aided by the comely Dr. Rachel Stein (Kate Vernon), Devlin discovers that Cinder's insurance-hungry
manager is in league with her ex. Despite Devlin's presense, Cinder is kidnapped by her stalker in the middle of a high-profile fashion show. Rushing to her aid, Devlin locates the hideout, kills her stalker, and in the process, cracks through his own phobia of the color white.
The sophomore teaming of John Woo and Canada's Alliance Communications Corporation (their first effort was a TV pilot remake of Woo's 1991 Hong Kong film ONCE A THIEF) is a mixed bag of good and very bad moments. While the script often feels like a rushed compilation of generic plot twists,
BLACKJACK is expertly filmed, thanks to Woo's innate ability to spin straw into gold. Packed with gunplay, pyrotechnics, and slo-mo action sequences-several of which border on the ludicrous (e.g., Devlin taking out hitmen while bouncing off a trampoline)--the film's primary deficiencies lie in its
convoluted script. Devlin's phobia of the color white is a pathetic Achilles heel, while Casey's sudden appearance in his household turns the film into a crime-fighting version of "Family Affair."
Lundgren is mildly likable as Devlin, bringing a welcome touch of humanity to his traditionally steely presence. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast prove forgettable, or at worst, openly irritating (as is the case with child actress Padraigin Murphy). Meanwhile, fans of blaxploitation superstar
Fred Williamson will be disappointed by his brief, nearly pointless appearance. Boasting some very unconvincing Canadian locations (standing in for NYC), this actioner sprinkles on a few arresting sequences, but more often than not, takes the quick-and-easy route. It will thus undoubtedly
disappoint fans of Woo's big-screen, high-octane masterworks. (Violence, profanity.)
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- Released: 1998
- Rating: R
- Review: Innovative Hong Kong action director John Woo helmed this feature-length TV pilot about a tough bodyguard and his dangerous lifestyle. Though it boasts several rousing action sequences, the film is sabotaged by lackluster acting, thin characterization, and… (more)