Blackjack (1998) Review

"Blackjack" American DVD Cover

"Blackjack" American DVD Cover

Director: John Woo
Writer: Peter Lance
Producer: Terence Chang
Cast: Dolph Lundgren, Kate Vernon, Phillip MacKenzie, Kam Heskin, Fred Williamson, Padraigin Murphy, Tony De Santis, Saul Rubinek
Running Time: 112 min.

By Mairosu

Dolph Lundgren is Jack Devlin, an ex-fed turned bodyguard for hire, who suffers a trauma during one shootout and as a result, develops a rabid fear of white colour (?!) . He decides to retire, but is lured back to work when his good friend gets injured, so he can finish his job off – protecting a supermodel from a psycho sniper.

So why am I reviewing this? Why, in the first place, have I rented this ?

Easy. This is one of the couple John Woo films I never saw…and if it only stayed that way. Blackjack, originally conceived as a pilot for (thankfully enough) never realised TV series, is a proper pile of junk. While Dolph ain’t totally horrible in his role as the white-o-phobic bodyguard/magician (yes, the man knows a couple of nifty card tricks) – everything else is. From the opening credits you have the feeling you’re watching one of those late night soft-core flicks on cable (the soundtrack full of trademark clichéd sax suites doesn’t help, either), chock-full of sets which look like they’ve been borrowed from Days of Our Lives and lacking in any sort of atmosphere. The plot has more holes than an execution victim of a particularly gruesome shooting squad, and the idea of having an action hero who fears a colour – white, no less, black would be somewhat tolerable – is downright outlandish. It doesn’t feel like that from the start, but wait ’till you see Dolph spinning around in agony after being showered to death with…milk.

Apart from Devlin, who, barring that phobia, is an OK persona, the rest of the characters suffer from the fact that this was a TV show in making – there’s an intriguing one-eyed sidekick (Saul Rubinek), a sexy psychiatrist (Kate Vernon), and a cute little girl who Jack adopts after her parents die in an accident (Padraigin Murphy, who surprisingly enough limited her film career to this turkey and a couple of appearances in shows such as Goosebumps), and they all seem like the people you learn to like over a span of 25 episodes – they just don’t fully grow on you during this film (save for maybe Murphy’s character). The villain, however, is surprisingly bland – Phillip MacKenzie does a routine act bringing your ordinary lovesick psycho to life.

And then the action scenes. Considering Mr.. Woo is signed as the director here, you would have expected something stylish, at very least. But that would be too much, wouldn’t it. Action set pieces defy any logic here (just observe Dolph bouncing on a trampoline and gunning down baddies in the first shootout), and for the first time, the celebrated slow-motion bullet ballet doesn’t work…if anything, it just prolongs the agony. Film only partially redeems itself midway through the film in a scene which involves some fine stunts on a dirt bike, but that’s about it. Action aside, the pacing of this film is drab and after 45 minutes you will feel you saw enough – but do challenge yourself and try to last the whole nine yards, or in this case, 108 minutes.

Bottom line, Dolph, a bloke with an IQ of 160, masters degree in chemical engineering and black belt in karate, and Woo, the undisputed master of action directing, both deserve better. How did Woo get entangled into this in the first place is beyond me as well : this is his first film after the smash success of Face/Off, and this is not a logical follow-up ; also, the fact that Woo himself was the executive producer makes me question his business (and common) sense. And give some love to Dolph for his, if not native, then at very least neutral accent – at least it’s not abrasively Germanic like with some.

Mairosu’s Rating: 1.5/10


By James H.

I rented this flick simply because I did a project on John Woo in high school. I needed, or wanted rather, to show a variety of clips, so I thought I’d check this out. It turns out that “Blackjack” is a piece of crap. I’m not even sure John Woo even directed this filth.

The plot concerns an ex-U.S. Marshal, now hired bodyguard Jack Devlin (Dolph Lundgren) who has to protect a supermodel. Devlin is practically a one man army. His only flaw, his Achilles heel if you will, is that he is afraid of the colour white. Yes, you heard me. Can you guess what happens when there is a shootout in a milk producing plant?

The story is hideously boring, uninteresting, cliched and trite. Characters are paper thin, and contrived. Not even John Woo can breathe life into this trash. Which reminds me, the film is made in such a way, I don’t think Woo had anything to do with the directing at all. The action scenes are false looking, not exciting and poorly edited (many a flaw can be found).

“Blackjack” is also a pilot for the very short-lived cable show. It is also a tie for the lowest point in John Woo’s career (the other is the TV pilot for “Once a Theif”). John Woo fans won’t find anything worth-while here. Ironically though, this is one of Lundgren’s better flicks.

James H’s Rating: 3/10

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