Saturday, January 12, 2008

Chicks Who Fight Crime

D.E.B.S. (2004)

Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous (2005)

It’s funny, it seems that an action movie can’t just be an action movie anymore. No matter how many fight scenes, explosions, and bad one-liners, there’s one thing that is guaranteed to earn a film swift expulsion from the guns-blazing, muscles-rippling, guys-will-love-it, VIP-only club of action flicks. Female lead? Forget about it. Guys will refuse to go see these movies with you, and will snicker when you rent them. Regardless of the fact that action movies starring women have identical plot lines to the male-dominated variety (oh come on, when was the last time you saw a man’s-man movie that didn’t have its very own romantic sub-plot?) they are immediately forced into the world of chick flicks. Well I for one will welcome them with open arms.

D.E.B.S. was a pleasant surprise – it was good in the ‘so bad it’s good’ way that chick flicks so often are, where I had expected it to be just plain bad. The premise? The SATs contain a secret test, used to recruit beautiful young women into the government’s prime intelligence agency, D.E.B.S. Now the top D.E.B.S. squad is going head to head with Lucy Diamond, criminal mastermind extraordinaire and – you guessed it – beautiful young woman. The plot takes an unexpected twist early on, but from there it’s comfortably predictable (as any good action movie should be), with plenty of slow-motion walking with guns and a good soundtrack. Jordana Brewster (you may remember her from The Fast and the Furious) is a highlight as the arch-villain herself. The movie is fun, and doesn’t take itself, or the genre it would be a part of if its stars had ‘Y’ chromosomes, too seriously.

It does, however, lack any of the gloriously bad dialogue that can make for endless re-watchings with accompanying movie-themed drinking games. (Think Top Gun: Every time Mav and Ice Man stare into each other’s eyes, angrily but oh so longingly, take a drink. Every time they say, 'it’s too close for missiles, I’m switching to guns,' down your drink.)

I’m not quite sure what to make of Miss Congeniality 2. On the one hand, it gets props for taking the ‘buddy flick’ model into chick-flick land, while resisting any urge to toss in a romantic sub-plot along the way. But on the other hand, I spent a fair amount of time cringing – the movie starts off with Sandra Bullock’s character getting dumped by Agent Matthews, the love interest from the first movie (over the phone, so we don’t even get a look at Benjamin Bratt, sigh). She responds by giving up field work and turning herself into the public relations face of the FBI, with pant-suits and manicures to match. The resulting ‘just be yourself’ moral of Gracie gradually finding her snort again is a bit overdone. Still, it’s fun and light, and the Las Vegas backdrop is colourful. Regina King is unrecognizable from her Ray days as the very scary new sidekick Sam. If you liked the first one, you’re likely to enjoy the second one, too.

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