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Blackjack (1998)

Directed by John Woo

Listen carefully. Put down "Hollywood Outsider", get to your local vid-shack and rent "Blackjack" immediately. Is it that good? NO! IT'S THAT BAD!!! I don't think I've had such a good time watching an actioner since "On Deadly Ground" (Seagal) or "Sudden Death" (Van Damme). This is a golden turkey and there isn't a boring frame in the entire hour and a half. It's a made-for-Canadian-TV film (strike one) starring freak-a-zoid Dolph Lundgren (isn't there an "A" missing in front of "Dolph"? Strike two) and directed by John "suck" Woo who is fresh off his latest stinker "Face/Off" (strike three).


In typical John Woo fashion, you need a frickin' road map to follow the convoluted-as-hell plot, but that's the fun! The first ten minutes concerns a Vegas casino owner who's daughter is the target of some bad guys. He calls an old friend, and ex-U.S. marshal, Dolph Lundgren to help him out. Yeah, right... the situation is presented like it's just the usual case of an honest casino owner who's being threatened by some street toughs! You know how that is. Dolph saves the little girl's life by gunning down the bad guys.

Oh, Dolph, you really are the Vanilla Ice of 90's action films!

Anyway, jump to two years later, and Dolph is talking to a blonde knockout, who's wearing a miniskirt, about his fear of the "color" white... and no... he's not talking to himself in a mirror. It turns out that the drooling, slutty wench is Dolph's psychiatrist! This is a great example of porn-logic casting in cinema. This fetching vixen informs Dolph that "color" phobias are very common... really? For this reason, he has to wear sunglasses to prevent from being frozen in terror anytime he sees anything the "color" white.

I absolutely swear to fuckin' god that I'm not making up any of this shit. But what a great gag! This way Dolph gets to constantly wear sunglasses and look oh so cool doing it. Take that Michael Caine! Dolph proves acting isn't so dependent on the eyes. Eyes may be the "windows to the soul" but what if you have no soul? Okay, we're totally off the rails now. Back to "Blackjact".

Later we see Dolph in his incredibly large and expensive New York City penthouse where he lives with his eye patch-wearin' manservant (snicker, snicker. Again, take that Michael Caine!). These are pretty nice digs for an unemployed ex-U.S. marshal from Stockholm. He's now contacted by an old pal, played by Fred Williamson, also from Stockholm (just kidding), who is the head of a private security agency protecting a supermodel who is from Arkansas. It turns out that she is being stalked by her ex-husband who is an ex-Shakespearean actor turned expert sniper and psycho, also from Arkansas. Jeez... there are a lot of "ex's" and folk from Arkansas in this flick. I guess Woo was trying to convey that there's some history behind these characters. Maybe, he's implying a Clinton connection, too?


When Williamson is shot, Dolph takes it upon himself to protect the supermodel and cure her of her drug addiction. Oh yeah, she has a drug problem. This twist is not set up. It just sorta comes out of nowhere. Just like in this review. Dolph and his security team are "the best", of course, but they are all easily disposed of by an ex-Shakespearean actor from Arkansas (Come on! He's not even from London, the home of Shakespearean "Act-Tors"!). Since he has beaten "the best", I guess this means this psycho is something better than "best". What's the word for that? "Best-est"? Come to think of it, did Dolph and company really stand a chance against someone schooled in the works of The Bard? Phfff.

Where was I? Oh yeah, Dolph winds up fighting mano y mano with this ex-thespian psycho in a knee-deep pond of milk in a dairy plant. Things are going Dolph's way until he loses his sunglasses. When he sees all that whiter-than-white milk he's like Superman faced with kryptonite. Woo's films always have some homoerotic imagery. In this case, it's Dolph wrestling with some dude while milk is spraying all over them. This scene has all the subtlety of a couple of chicks wrestling in a tub of vegtable oil and should be viewed with about the same level of seriousness.


All this crap is just the bare-bones plot. I left out how the casino owner and his wife die in a car accident and Dolph is named as the legal guardian to their daughter. Remember the opening bit? So in the middle of the movie she shows up to live with Dolph which really doesn't amount to anything. We also get some flashbacks of him as a child helping his dad grifting card sharks. Dolph picks up his "white phobia" watching his father trying to light his Zippo lighter. This is supposed to be the signal for little Dolph to do something, I forget what, to distract the bad guys. Since the Zippo just sparks white instead of igniting, little Dolph freezes up, leading to his father's murder. Oh, the guilt! Can you imagine?

Also, there are scenes at the thespian psycho's abandoned-theater-lair plus scenes involving his gang of motorcycle riding henchmen! Where this out-of-work actor, sniper and insane person from Arkansas got all this shit is never explained. What possible explaination could there be? The movie was shot in Canada so the scenes around NYC are very obviously not in, or around, New York City. Why Woo didn't just transpose the story to take place in Toronto, I don't know. It's not like having this story take place in New York City somehow made sense out of these characters or situations. To get around some of the logistical problems, large segments of "Blackjack" supposedly take place in the New York City suburb of Dobb's Ferry. Okay, whatever... I've heard that New York film crews joke that just once they would like to work on a film that is suppose to take place in Toronto but is shot in New York.

Strongly recommended to any aficionado of cinema-le-bad. -- Rating: $5.98

Tom Graney -- copyright 2000 Hollywood Outsider

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