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Review Blackjack TV Movie (1998): Focus on the action and you will still find some enjoyment!

genre: action, crime, heroic bloodshed

Blackjack was intended as a backdoor pilot. Basically to see if it could become a TV Show. Well, the show never happened. Does this mean the movie was bad? Let's dive into this, shall we?

If the idea was to entice and got me all excited for a series with Dolph Lundgren as a badass bodyguard then it's safe to say this TV Movie failed. Can we blame John Woo for this? While he did direct and produce it and he does seem have his stamp on it. I don't think he was very much involved. It doesn't feel like a passion project or anything like he has done before. Even the Once a Thief show is superior to this. Still, I think there is enough here to at least warrant a one time viewing. The action is less explosive and hard hitting but I did found some enjoyment in some of the sequences. 
This time no pigeons, but enough gun play in slow motion to satisfy the craving for bloodshed. It is clear that the budget must have been super low as John Woo can't be extravagant and dramatic, at least not action wise. For example, in the opening scene we get introduced to Jack Devlin and his friends. They have called him into action because some thugs are threatening to kidnap their precious daughter. While protecting her his eyes get hurt. Every time he sees the colour white he gets blinded. It doesn't really make much sense to be honest. He is hurt physically, but the consequence seems to be psychological. It doesn't matter. He manages to defeat the bad guys anyway. After his recovery he receives news that his friends have died in a car accident, off screen. It's like a couple of months after the attack but Jack never questions whether this could be foul play or not. Even if it truly was just an accident, old school John Woo,  would have shown this. The death of these people would have been exploited so that we could feel his pain. Especially since he now has to take care of the daughter. 

But just when he is trying to get adjusted to his new situation, another friend (Fred Williamson) ask his help with a female client of his. She is targeted by some psycho. He declines at first. But then his friends gets shot. In the hospital he comes to the realization that he has no choice but to help out. His client. Cinder James, is not really stable at this moment and completely hooked on drugs. Jack Devlin doesn't like that and makes sure she kicks the habit. Meanwhile, the psycho (Phillip MacKenzie) is still on the prowl for her. In this film MacKenzie reminded me lot of Hugh Jackman with a hint of Jason Isaacs on a terrible acting day. Thing is that if he wouldn't speak, he would have been terrifying. But the guy needs to recite Shakespearean dialogue and overact like there is no tomorrow. A good actor like Anthony Wong could do that and still come off as menacing. Unfortunately, Mackenzie is like a cartoon villain who is incompetent and inefficient. 
Jack of course has no trouble dealing with him and puts an end to his terror in style. It's a little ridiculous how the bad guy gets defeated, since he easily could have avoided it. But then again, the film had to end somehow. As with many of John Woo's early films this one doesn't have much of a plot. And yet there are enough sub plots here to fill two seasons. It seems to me they were trying to set up several story lines and characters for the show completely hurting the pace and impact of the main plot. Not going to lie. Had John Woo been able to shoot more of his trademark action then this could have been a hit show for sure. As is, just focus on that and ignore everything else, you will be able to find some enjoyment in it.

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