Welcome to my first Cex Mix post. In this series I will be trawling through Cex’s endless back catalogue of DVD’s, sniping the most obscure 50p pick-ups and then watching them so you never have to. Are they worth more than the change in your back pocket? Will they ever be seen outside of the shops’ aching walls? Would they be better served on the landfill? I hope to answer such questions for you, and at the very least, introduce you to a film that may forever be confines of history’s bargain bin. Enjoy the ride.
Jane (Teri Hatcher) is a security officer at weapons developers CY-KOR. Exciting start, right? Her teenage son Michael (Trevor Blumas) is kidnapped, putting her at the mercy of an unknown ne’erdowel, who sets her some underhand tasks to ensure the well-being of her son. These tasks make her the prime suspect in a crime she did not commit, and it will take all of her hacking skills, mothering instincts and the help of her ex-husband, David (Rob Lowe), to stay alive, outwit the criminals and clear up the mess she’s been forced to make. If this concept doesn’t have you hooked, then frankly, there’s no hope for you.
“Yeah, well, it looks like you’ve followed one too many memos!”
Now, IMDb’s synopsis, which helped me draft the above, calls this a “complicated thriller”. That’s an exaggeration. This is a simple framing story, whose most interesting hook is that the protagonist’s name is *not* an alias; she’s really called Jane Doe. The film’s plot jumps around, from attempted killing to attempted killing, before Doe turns the tables and gets her own back on the naughty nellys trying to earn a quick buck at the expense of US national security. But, from the start, the stakes fail to live up to the hype: Jane uses floppy discs to incriminate herself and I simply won’t believe anything that vital to US national security could be downloaded onto a single yellow square.
Without the budget for major set-pieces, the action sags and duly disappoints: at one point, Jane drives through some plastic patio furniture, resulting in a laughably large audible crash. Hand-to-hand combat is scant and underwhelming, and just an hour after viewing, I’m struggling to recall a shootout of any note. And even in moments of actual tension, the camera work is so shaky and obsessed with close-ups that the film’s frailties are only highlighted.
Jane Doe is not without moments of drama, or surprise, scarce as they are. The film isn’t afraid of death, or to attempt the important. Sadly for every surprise, there is an equal grimace, including one where Doe makes her wannabe assassin put his face in an unflushed toilet bowl.
More anguish comes courtesy of the dialogue, which often feels like it’s been though a few levels of Google Translate. Conversation skips between characters with the grace of a figure-skating beaver, especially between mother and son, whom it seems can barely bare to exist in the other’s presence. For the first 40 minutes, Hatcher is given little more to do than complain at the supporting characters, pleading with one and criticising another. When she’s not complaining, she’s explaining, constantly telling people what she knows and what they know, and why she knows better than them.
Hatcher and Lowe are perfectly decent actors, who are most certainly Acting, but a veritable clown car of cookie-cutter exaggerations surrounds them. The villains all have outrageously forced accents; I was surprised the British baddie didn’t stand up and growl: “I’m a Cockney, and I’m fackin’ evil, aren’ I?” before smashing his cup of tea on the floor and getting in a queue.
Jane Doe stinks of TV-movie. It’s not awful, I was regularly brought out of my boredom, but it’s throwaway piffle. There isn’t enough invention, excitement or focused innovation to make this anything more than a 50p Cex buy. This one won’t have a revival, it won’t ever be a cult classic, but it might well crop up on 5STAR on a Thursday afternoon when you’ve a bit of a sniffle. And if that is the case, there are certainly worse things to nap through.
Images courtesy of imfdb respectfully.