Thursday, March 27, 2008

Point of No Return

The Action Mutant…
may not be smarter than a 5th grader, but can the kid go through Bronson’s filmography?

Point of No Return

review by Joe Burrows

Ok, here’s a fact that will probably get me kicked out of the Action Union: I have never seen the 1990 film La Femme Nikita in its entirety. Worse yet…I’ve seen its American remake Point of No Return a good five times! And I liked it! Well, strip me naked and tie me to a flagpole (no, really…don’t)! For some reason, film elitists will automatically term a remake (especially an American remake of a foreign film) to be totally devoid of any quality, no matter what film it is. Funny, I don’t remember anyone shitting on The Ring, despite the fact the Japanese Ringu is supposedly superior. While American cinema is known for some amazing foreign remake atrocities (Breathless, Get Carter, Swept Away…though Guy Ritchie’s technically British but lets face it, he was under some influence), who’s to say that a blind squirrel can’t find his nuts every once in a while. Despite the fact that I do disdain the fact that filmmakers tend to remake films that were near perfect to begin with, that notion will simply never change in a filmmaker’s constant pursuit for perfection. Oh, and if foreign is always better, how does that explain Uwe Boll? Checkmate.

The Plot, as it was:
Bridget Fonda (Kiss of the Dragon) stars as Maggie, a punkish junkie who kills a cop during a robbery and is put to death. Only, in the next scene, Maggie awakes in a white room and sees a mysterious man named Bob (Gabriel Byrne). Turns out Maggie’s death was faked and she was spared by a secret government agency that Bob’s a part of. After some martial arts and firearms training (and some etiquette lessons from Anne Bancroft), abrasive Maggie is rechristened as glamorous Claudia and let back into normal society. The End. Well, that would be a suck-ass Action film, right? Anyway, Claudia is soon forced into the life of a hit(wo)man by the agency, with Bob readily insisting that she can be terminated at any time if she does not comply. This proves to be a real bummer for Claudia, who is in love with Californian photographer J.P. (Dermot Mulroney), who is becoming incredibly wary of his lady’s secretive nature. Will Claudia keep her double life intact or will she end up getting paid a visit from The Cleaner (Harvey Keitel). Trust me; you don’t fuck with The Cleaner.

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
Fixation for Ms. Fonda aside (what? she’s friggin’ hot! What do you want from me?), Point of No Return is actually a very capable Action film that is not the irreparable mess that people seem to make it out to be. Certainly, it’s not perfect by any stretch, as there are plot questions that needlessly rack the brain (Does Claudia actually think that when Bob sends her someplace, she WON’T be doing a hit? If J.P. hasn’t found out anything about Claudia in the four months they’ve been dating, why is he still around? I’ll chalk that one up to her being dynamite in bed). And the transformation from Maggie to Claudia may be a bit too uniform, as if the guttural, emo-ish Maggie goes from a Before to After shot without much substance to be shown in the process. But as an action thriller, it delivers a few tight sequences and the majority of the cast is credible with such a wholly improbable tale. Fonda shows off telling emotional range for an Action saga and really gets over the undercurrent of Maggie’s vague past the way expository dialogue would not (and the use of Nina Simone’s music tells the story in even more volumes). Byrne is just his usual cool best (as The Arrow would say, he is “The Byrne”!) and Miguel Ferrer dials it up to about 0.7 on the Bob Morton scale as the head of the agency. Mulroney’s a mixed bag and it’s not so much about his performance as it is about his character. The writers have changed this character to be more confrontational with Claudia but Robert Getchell & Alexandra Seros can’t seem to decide whether he’s a concerned boyfriend, a douche or just a plain moron. It’s a case where the character seems actually overwritten, if that’s possible. One performance I wish was longer is that of Keitel’s Cleaner. His ten minutes of screen time brings a sense of menace to the film after the Claudia/J.P. dynamic tires. I almost wish the writers had made him more of a source of conflict than what was presented, as it would have almost been like Claudia’s cold past as Maggie coming back in The Cleaner’s cold, ghostly form. In the end, Point of No Return is great, rainy day entertainment, remake or not. Pfft, Uwe Boll.

Body Count/Violence: 34. Surprising what a petite woman can do, no? Not only is Maggie/Claudia proficient with using a pencil and a shard of glass as a stabbing apparatus, she also kicks ass with martial arts. Nevertheless, most are done in by some bloody shooting (both point blank and sniper style), vehicular rundown and explosions (including sweet rocket launcher use!). The Cleaner uses acid to erase the victim’s identities and even though nothing is seen, you get the gist.

Sexuality/Nudity: Did I mention Bridget Fonda was in this? Needless to say, she spends a few scenes in some form of undress and/or hot outfit (gray CK underwear, black panties and open shirt, black dress and pantyhose, doing a hit in a t-shirt and skimpy panties, red leather thigh high boots…should I continue?) There’s a sex scene with her and Mulroney where a glimpse of nipple may be visible, as well as her breasts being cupped (though it’s a close up, which usually screams “body double”). There’s also a guy and gal mooning and flashing their ass & titties at Mardi Gras, respectively.

Language/Dialogue: Fairly strong, especially when Claudia reverts to her past attitude.

How bad was it?:
Most critics were only too quick to point at the deficiencies the remake had as opposed to the original. Ebert gave it *** but did mention that the changes made weren’t for the better though he did like the Pygmalion element just fine.

Did it make the studio’s day?:
Warner Bros. released Point of No Return on 3/19/93, as it finished 2nd its first weekend to the third Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. It slowly fell out of the top 10 after a month or so and finished its run with a $30 million gross (against no budget figures released). I don’t know why the budget was never made public but my guess is that the film was a modest bomb.

Film: ***/*****
Entertainment value: ****/*****

Copyright 2008 The Action Mutant.

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