EntertainmentNutz Feature

Year Released
: 1996

Starring: Geena Davis
Actors: Samuel L. Jackson Patrick Malahide Craig Bierko 
Director: Renny Harlin 
Producers: Renny Harlin, Shane Black and Stephanie Austin
Screenwriter: Shane Black
Run Length: 120 min
Rating: R

Review By: John Barker
- Who said they don't make em like they used to?

 In need of a box office hit after the biggest failure in Hollywood history, Cutthroat Island, director Renny Harlin choose to take on this more small scale action feature and although it may not scale the epic heights of his earlier pirate cotasphrophy it is a minor masterpiece.

In saying that this is a masterpiece is to ignore the fact that the storyline is seemingly a string of mispronounced plot clichés. This exercise in improbability begins when Samantha Caine, (Geena Davis), a suburban school teacher who suffers from amnesia, hires a private detective Mitch Henessey, (Samuel L. Jackson), to help her find the secret to her lost memories.

Unfortuately when she is reminded of her of her past Samantha discovers that she use to be an assassin for the C.I.A who want her dead because Miss Caine might spoil their next operation, faking a terrorist action to force funds out of the Government.

Although it’s not exactly Dickens the film does attempt some political satire, with the C.I.A suggesting that they receive more funding, and the President responding ‘Can anybody say healthcare’. Furthermore the scenario that a Government agency would actually commit a terrorist act on home soil is an interesting conundrum given today’s political climate of the impending ‘war on terror’.

Post-modern elements are an overpowering force in this action film. The first action scene uses rather cartoonish elements like candy and a pie to dispose of villains. There is also a quite amusing chase scene which revels in its baroque overtones in which Samantha while skating across an iced over lake shoots two men in a moving vehicle. Also the finale which ends with a bridge blowing up is certainly one of great explosive endings alongside Speed, (Jan de Bont, 1994,US), and Die Hard, (John McTiernan, 1988, US).

This film also provides a pro-feminist characterisation, Samantha Caine is able to outthink and out-gun her partner Mitch and her male enemies. Also in rather an ironic costume decision Samantha wears a white vest much like her alter-ego of the Die Hard films John McClane. Geena Davis also cements her role as one of the action women of the nineties, thanks largely to Cutthroat Island, along with Linda Hamilton of Terminator 2: Judgement Day, (James Cameron, 1992, US).

Although I m sure director Harlin wouldn’t appreciate this but I would label him as an action auteur as he predominantly uses slow-motion in the action scenes and some people would say that is simply a convention of the genre, but I tend to disagree as the specific fetishism of the spectacle of bodily violence translates to extreme formalism which can be considered as auteurial trait. Also a thematic reoccurrence that can be found in his films is the use of ice or water environments as he is Finish national and this is obviously a part of himself that he injects into his work.

All of these thematic and artistic elements combine to construct a fine action thriller which fans of both Davis and Harlin should see.


The MovieNutz Store

The Long Kiss Goodnight 
Geena Davis 
 DVD / R / 1996
Your Price: $16.99


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