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"What do they mean, I ain't no Jesse James? What's so special about Jesse James? He sure never impressed me none."
DVD ReviewPaul Hogan gained popularity in the late 80s as the fish-out-of-water Australian in the more or less successful Crocodile Dundee and its sequel. In Lightning Jack, Hogan (who wrote the script) attempts to draw from the same well, and unfortunately, had much less success.
"Lightning" Jack Kane (Hogan) is a semi-famous Western outlaw. When he is the only gang member to survive a bungled bank robbery, Hogan must try to make a name for himself if he wants to become as famous as Jesse James. Unfortunately, during a solo attempt, he finds it very difficult to rob a bank and watch the door at the same time, so he is forced to take a hostage to escape with his life. The hostage turns out to be Ben Doyle (Cuba Gooding Jr.), a mute who is bored with town life and sick of being treated like an idiot. Kane and Doyle decide to team up and become the most famous outlaws of the day. As you can imagine, wackiness and hijinks ensue (as well as some shenanigans and goings-on).
If you think the premise sounds rather bland, you're right. The resulting film is rather bland as well. The jokes are, more often than not, overplayed, and extremely stale. Take, for example, the hilarious consequences of Kane getting bit on the bum by a snake and is then forced to ask Doyle to suck the poison out. Suck it out...of his butt! Excuse me while I gasp for laughter. Most of the jokes run the same course, and you've seen everything here before.
It's not all bad, however; try as I might, I can't seem to dislike Paul Hogan. He is such an easy-going and amenable guy, and his personality shines through on screen. I wish him a long and successful career selling Subaru Outbacks and making Dundee sequels. I usually hate Cuba Gooding Jr., because while he was good in Boyz N the Hood, I LOATHED his work in Jerry Maguire and As Good as it Gets. He is just too earnest and heartfelt for my liking. In Lightning Jack, he loses a bit of the smugness that usually permeates his characters and does decent work, using every opportunity to bug out his eyes and puff out his cheeks. The supporting cast features many well known character actors; many of whom gained notoriety in traditional Westerns.
The film was directed by Simon Wincer (who directed one of my favorite guilty pleasures, D.A.R.Y.L), who adds nothing to the film. There is no tension or excitement, and the scenes tend to go on just long enough to be extra unfunny. Still, the likeable performances keep the film from being a total washout, and fans of Westerns may find enough humor to keep them interested.
Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: C-
Image Transfer Review: Some of the widescreen photography in this film is very nice. Unfortunately, the DVD doesn't do the best job of representing it. Black levels aren't the best: many darker scenes look very muddy and pixelated. Colors seem a bit washed-out at times. There is a lot of blurring and shimmer on fine background detail and pretty much every horizontal surface. This isn't a horrible picture, but it has enough problems to annoy anyone with a trained eye for DVD video.
Image Transfer Grade: C
Audio Transfer Review: This track is pretty bland. The "standard comedy effect" is in full swing here, with everything represented by the front soundstage. Dialogue is usually clear, but at times seems to be mixed too low, so I had to play the volume game, turning the sound up and down repeatedly. Still, the score and fight scenes are well represented, and the track is certainly serviceable.
Audio Transfer Grade: C+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 TV Spots/Teasers
Extras Review: The extras are pretty light on this disc, but what do you expect from a film that was such a failure at the box office? Besides the surprisingly thorough bios/filmographies, there is a short promo featurette that offers nothing of substance on the film besides some brief actor interviews. There is also a theatrical trailer (after seeing this, I'm not surprised it didn't do well, since it is one of the least funny comedy trailers I have ever seen) and two TV spots. Your basic marketing stuff.
Extras Grade: D+
Final CommentsThe biggest crime a comedian can commit is to be unfunny and not realize it, and Lightning Jack is certainly guilty of this. No matter how likeable I found the characters, I can't say I laughed (or even smiled) once during the film. Still, the actors are appealing, and HBO has provided an acceptable disc for fans of the film.
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