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Monday, 5 August 2019

Retro Review: Blackjack (1998)

Cast: Dolph Lundgren, Kate Vernon, Phillip Mackenzie, Kam Heskin, Fred Williamson 
Genre: Action TV Movie

Plot: A federal agent must confront a phobia in order to save a supermodel from a skilled assassin 

'Not Quite ''Jack For Good'', But Still A Solid John Woo Outing'

Blackjack was originally conceived as a joint Canadian/U.S TV pilot for the Hong Kong director, John Woo, who is most notable for Face/Off in particular amongst several other films and is an action film that seems to get a lot of hate from people. But for the ridiculous-sounding plot of the main character having a phobia of the colour, white, that sounds far-fetched, it plays on this silly premise by being a highly entertaining romp, without being too overly ludicrous to the point it threw me off, completely. 

Danish actor, Dolph Lundgren plays an ex-US Marshall and now current security guard, Jack, who is blinded whilst trying to protect a drug-addicted supermodel from her crazy ex-hubby, with the aid of his niece, for whom he is left to attend to, in Casey. 

Blackjack feels closer to The Killer and less like Woo's other subsequent offerings in Hard Target, Hard Boiled, Face/Off. More in the vein of an action version of The Bodyguard starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner, Woo's trademark slick gun-fu-like style and slo-mo shots are written all over this movie, and these are not overdone, either. Although being a TV film, much of the action is neutered down and yet, it still didn't affect my enjoyment of Blackjack much.  

Like say, well Showgirls, it is entertainingly bad, and watchable that I found some charm in some of the scenes. Compared to John Woo's other offerings, this is very lightweight and a lot softer as he apes his own style, much to the film's budget, but also it's rather decent and fun to sit through that doesn't take itself too seriously. As far as low budget action films go, on its own merit, there was plenty to enjoy from Blackjack, with the action looking decent on occasions such as the motorcycle chase scenes, and Dolph Lundgren looking less stoic and showing a tad more, if not as much, range in his acting. His performance is actually one of his best that I have seen (and he does better than usual), and usually, he, like most action stars, is not that well known for giving strong performances. & to see him fly about, as well as kick-ass by letting rip his martial arts skills, was still cool to watch, especially the 'got milk' fight scene in a dairy factory, of all places. Phillip Mackenzie, as the villain, hams it up: he's eccentric, a bit nutty but also playing on the British baddie tropes. I could have done with seeing a bit more of Fred Williamson, whose character should have had a much bigger part in the movie.

Blackjack could have done with two more quality action sequences and a little more depth in the plot with the White phobia angle that should have been delved into a bit more, but still, for a TV movie, despite the superficial low quality-ish sheen it gives off, this was still watchable and entertaining. If it hadn't been for John Woo's added touch, it would have been a lot worse. 

Final Verdict:

Blackjack is a B-movie with attitude, as well as having a bit more style, which elevates it above many other B-movie and direct- to- DVD and NetFlix actioners. I went into it not expecting much out of it and in the end, I liked and enjoyed it. 

Whilst John Woo has delivered better elsewhere, this is far from being terrible as it has been lauded by many; but rather this isn't bad at all and thus, it remains a fun, solid little no-brainer to watch. 


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