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In this action comedy, Jack Goldwater, an IRS agent on loan to the Federal Air Marshal Service, is relieved of field duty after insulting a powerful U.S. Senator, and finds himself exiled to a humiliating desk job in Nevada as the federal receiver managing a legal brothel in tax default, where -- with the help of the brothel Madam, Lady Magdalene -- he uncovers an Al Qaeda plot to unload a nuclear-bomb-sized crate at Hoover Dam. Written by
J. Neil Schulman
During pre-production the Department of Homeland Security sent writer/producer J. Neil Schulman a letter denying the production permission to "any of the Department's official visual identities" in the production. A few weeks later the DHS official who'd authorized sending the letter was charged with possession of child pornography on his computer. During the production Schulman complied with the letter by having a sign in the movie that was marked by graffiti to read, "Department of Homeland Sexurity." See more »
Senator Red Kensington:
So let me get this straight, Agent Goldwater. All it took for you to conclude that an Arabic-looking man was an al Qaeda terrorist was that he was carrying a violin case that had already cleared airport security and that he was watching a Tom Clancy movie? And we're not supposed to think that you had racially profiled this innocent performing artist the moment you set eyes on him?
Senator, my tactical assessment was based on a confluence of factors...
Senator Red Kensington:
But you want me to believe that if another ...
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Occasionally gives the slightest hint of what it could have been, but the rest is all over the shop, over long and irritatingly amateur
I had heard very mixed things on this film on IMDb but the Amazon reviews and star rating suggested it was better and I thought to myself that it cannot be that bad. Watching the trailer looked odd, like it was a very weird mix of genres, with humour, action and songs but the main thing was it looked cheap. Having seen many low budget short films or student films from people taking their first steps into the medium of film, I decided that I would overlook the first impression and give it a fair viewing – the ability to afford all the trimmings doesn't stop you writing good scripts etc.
Reading the plot didn't inspire me with hope but at the same time it offers potential. IRS Agent Jack Goldwater is demoted down to running a state-claimed brothel in Nevada when he racially profiles a Middle-Eastern man on a plane. However, when the same man shows up in the brothel he smells a rat and uncovers a plot that threatens America. With the help of the working girls and their colourful madam, he has to try to overcome political incompetence to save the day. As odd as it sounds, the basic idea offers the potential for what was advertised – a comedy built on action, zany light comedy and comic dialogue. Even the characters and their interactions offer this. So why then does the film so powerfully fail to deliver any of it?
The problems start with the script. There are simply too many lines and scenes that offer nothing but words – they don't add colour, they don't add to the speaker's characters, they aren't funny and they have no dramatic worth. They aren't terrible by any means but after a while it is hard to escape the feeling of people, standing in a room, saying......things! There is no content – just words. Attempts at humour mostly fall flat; there were one or two lines that drew a little "hmph" of appreciation from me, but mostly there simply isn't anything to laugh at in the same way as there are few words to care about. The occasional attempt at comedy (I presume) ranges wildly from physical comedy with two character handcuffed together, through to prostitutes spitting into a condom to make a drunken john think he has already climaxed; none of it works but so much of it is weirdly judged, with no consistent tone.
The whole film suffers from this. So we have scenes in a brothel where girls are sexily introduced in a lightly comic fashion; scenes of running with guns; scenes of comedy terrorists; a gospel song performed on stage about Rahab; a dramatic (ish) murder scene and so on. None of them work individually but the combination of having them all beside each other while also feeling totally disconnected just undermines the film really badly. I have no problem with films trying to do several things, but it is hard to do them and be consistent – this film shows just how hard it is and how bad things can be when it doesn't work. Again I could see the potential for the wacky, the sexy, the dramatic and the comic to come together, but they didn't.
The budget doesn't help but I've seen so much more done with less – the problem I had was not the low-budget, it was the amateurish feel the film has. The direction is poor in terms of the cast and in terms of the shot selection. Cutaways are frequent and unnecessary, lighting (or maybe film stock?) changes give the film a different look within the same scene (although it is worst scene to scene). The musical score varies wildly from classical to "zany" music but it rarely matches the action and yet is always present. The editing is terrible – not technically perhaps but in terms of selection. Almost every scene is a few seconds longer than it should be and it makes the viewer feel awkward, like I was hanging around. Far too many shots were just "there" – the gun range was "there", lots of driving scenes are "there", lots of shots are just "there"; again it is hard to describe if you've not seen it but it feels very baggy indeed. And the irony is it doesn't need to – the DVD runs to 1h50m or so, far long that it needs to be (or can sustain).
The cast are very mixed. The big draw is Nichols but she is poor; she never finds her character and she overacts badly in most scenes – her first appearance is a wonderfully bad example of it. Against my worries Keogh was quite likable, as was Smythe – they showed some relaxed charmed and chemistry, just a shame that the script kills them. Lynx is stunning and surprisingly natural while Wraith is again quite relaxed and a cool presence. Schulman is amusing in a Dom Deluise way and again I would have loved him to have had better lines as his character could have been very good. Beyond these it is really amateur hour, lots of people doing first performances and the scenes are full of "pause – now say dialogue" moments (and the pauses are left in for the viewer), very few people feel natural, although the poor dialogue is a big part of this. At one point my girlfriend walked into the room, watched 2 minutes involving the brothel girls and simply asked me "have any of these people ever acted before?" and I could see her point.
Lady Magdalene's is a mess. It has potential but it fluffs it all and what few promising aspects (I actually liked several of the leads) are smothered by amateurish aspects. Content is poor, laughs are absent, action is dull, dialogue is so clunky it even kills the "ok" performances, tone is all over the place and generally the direction is poor.
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