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Except for the mediocre cinematography, aimless direction, lack of context, terrible acting and general pointlessness, 'Elektra' is super!

Elektra is pretty much a text-book, old-school kung fu movie: There are forces of pure evil who want to capture a girl with mystical powers, or, barring that, kill her in order to keep her from the forces of pure good. First, they send a team of characterless ninjas, and when that fails, they arrange for their magically powered kung fu warriors to do the job. Of course, they are opposed by a lone super-fighter who must redeem her wicked past by kicking much butt in a holy and violent manner.

It's like watching a Hong Kong action film from 1982. Of course, what most people don't tell you about Hong Kong action movies from 1982 is that they almost invariably suck. Elektra follows in this proud tradition by being not only boring, but also excessively pointless.

It stars Jennifer Garner, whose one expression is to purse her lips. Here's Jennifer looking sad: See, her lips are pursed! Here's Jennifer looking amorous: You can tell by how pursed her lips are. And here's Jennifer looking constipated: Guess what her lips are doing!

While a number of actors have gotten by on a single look (cf. the complete works of Harrison Ford and Kevin Costner), they mostly maintained their careers by appearing in films that someone, somewhere might want to go see. My advice to Ms. Garner: Dump a lot of cash in your 401(k) right now, because I think that next year's payment is going to be a bit slim.

The first of an almost infinite number of problems with Elektra is the good vs. evil set up. We're told that "The Hand" is evil, and we'd better just believe it, because we never see them do or say or plan to do anything terribly evil. They are tremendously Asian, and they bow to each other, so I guess that indicates that if they had their way, we'd all be eating soy paste with little sticks. God bless America!

Meanwhile, the good people are led by Stick, a blind white guy who's so good that he orders the über-assassin Elektra to kill a completely innocent man and his reasonably innocent daughter.

Needless to say, Elektra doesn't kill them, but instead befriends them and then, as often happens after you make friends with the people you were supposed to kill, ninjas come through the roof and fire darts.

This leads to some running and knifing. It also leads to the only good scene in the movie: Back at Evil Incorporated (i.e. "The Hand"), it is learned that the regular ninjas were not successful. Thus, the team of super ninjas is brought in--Tattoo, a man who is, shockingly, covered in tattoos; Typhoid, a woman possessed with the awesome power of deathliness; Stone, who's all strong and stuff; and Some Other Dude, who can do, like, stuff.

They enter the boardroom of The Hand decked out in Hollywood post-punk and anime-goth clothing that's so dorky and derivative that it would probably embarrass the Tron Suit Guy. As they slouch and saunter in, the former C.O.O. of The Hand approaches their leader and says, in his best generic Asian voice, "Your warriors are an abomination." I don't know; I just thought that was funny.

The rest of the film, though--not so funny. Nor entertaining nor engaging. There's just never any reason to root for or care about the main character. As far as I can tell, she's just an amoral assassin, and I'm supposed to feel sorry for her because she had a messed-up childhood. No thanks!

What's worse, she doesn't even follow through on her job of killing. Maybe I was just having a Bhagavad Gita moment, but I really wanted her to kill the guy and his kid, because, hey, that's what she's paid to do. Have we come to the point in our culture when duty and responsibility mean so little that we'd actually root for a businesswoman who won't even fulfill her contracts?

Maybe I'd have cared more about what happened if anyone had shown even the slightest character, but if all I've got is voiceover narration saying "the good guys are the ones in the white robes; the bad guys are all Japanese-looking: now go!" then it's a little hard for me to get into the flow of things. I mean, both al-Qaeda and the Ku Klux Klan think of themselves as good. I'm sure if they got to do their own voiceover narration, they'd tell us to root for them. With a little more context, though, they both become kind of unsympathetic.

Context is exactly what Elektra lacks. Well, context, a script and some sort of acting on Garner's part. The weird thing is that they got Goran Visnjic and Terence Stamp to be in this movie. I can only imagine that they threw buckets of C-notes at each of them and then hoped they'd be so blinded by the rain of money that they wouldn't bother to read the screenplay before agreeing to appear in the film.

I could go on about the mediocre cinematography (a bunch of shots you've seen before, and better, in car commercials and Teletubbies episodes), the lame costuming or the aimlessness of the direction (by Rob Bowman, best known for the execrable Reign of Fire, which was critically dubbed Rain of Crap), but it all boils down to a total lack of any compelling reason to care about what's happening on screen. Without that, it's not so much a movie as just a series of alternating colors flashing on an illuminated surface.

Elektra
Rated NR

More by James DiGiovanna

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