I'm really excited that The Third Society got made... there were so many unanswered questions from The First Society and The Second Society that I haven't slept in Months! Similarly JA Steel Director/Writer/Actress/Producer of The Third Society made this baby her labor of love, and the strongest outing from her Production Company Warrior Entertainment! I have to say though, when the Press Packet gleefully proclaims that the director of the film being promoted "Fail[ed] Practical Filmmaking" and refused "to retake the directing/ editing class over", one must wonder if this is an excuse or a sign that the filmmaker herself takes a little bit of everything in a tongue in cheek manner.
Whomever the culprit, the plot doesn't seem to spring fully formed from page to screen. A young woman is murdered in front of her two children, who are on the spot adopted into the Witness Protection Program (of some Asian country, apparently not named). Years later Erica Jones (the lovely Shannon Clay) and big sister Cassandra Alexandra Jones are grown and resentful. As a part of the tough as nails and hard as Cynthia Roth-Rock character, Cassandra Alexandra eschews first and middle names like she does Paperwork and is usually identified simply as "Jones!" And Jones, of course, is your typical "Bad-Girl" action hero from her tough attitude to her results-over-book police career even down to her Catch-Phrase of "ANY QUESTIONS?"! Jones herself has specialized in Martial Arts and has joined the LAPD while kid-sis Erica has become an investment banker.
But what form does the Piss-off take? How about a bust of a Billion Dollar Heroin shipment? That's billion with a "B"! Who is she busting here, Pepsi? Nope, it's the originally named Asian Mobster Dragon (I kid you not) as portrayed by Khin-Kyaw Maung. What follows involves the kidnapping of Erica (clearly the only banker who can transfer the Billion [with a B] back to the Dragon) and the Kill Bill-like revenge rampage of Jones. Now teamed with a peeping-Tom FBI agent (Russell Vann Brown) who can't stop walking in on Jonsey when in the shower, we're treated to an expose of the under and over-worlds of Los Angeles all along the way to some familiar locales.
So... what did they get right in this movie? There are a lot of Budget-assassinated good ideas that were just begging to make it to the screen here. It's hard to say that there was much success in faithful translation of what must have been an interesting screenplay. However, The Third Society is not un-original! True, it's a Martial Arts and Asian Influenced Revenge Tragedy that's at least 15 years out of date... but so is Kill Bill, so that doesn't count as a complaint. While Steel could have cut a lot more corners financially to come up with a better film, one of the things that actually works here is her use of Miniatures. I was confused as to why an entire chase sequence featured voices but no actors, but I had no idea until I watched the behind-the-scenes documentary that the Helicopter and some of the other vehicles weren't even real. Lastly, for all the unintentional laughs that pop up here (and, Nelly, a few there are) the actually intended comedy shows what kind of sense of Humor Steel really has. It's almost surprising to catch some of her jokes and find yourself liking them. Dueling Internal monologues springs to mind!
Unfortunately, the end product isn't quie the sum of the good parts because there are a lot of misfires. Certain plot points aren't brought to life particularly well, and there's an overall sense of there not being enough takes to make a few scenes better than the way they came out. The acting here suffers from this. It's hard to say that the people in this movie are particularly good or bad actors, but they don't shine really brightly here. There's also a choppy method of inter-cut editing that makes the first half-hour sort of a repetitive mess.
The Score, credited to James Henriques on the DVD and to the Emily O'Neary band on the CD, mirrors the Editing in its repetition. The music is pretty good (in a late 1980's cheese manner) for the most part, but adds an air of melodrama to The Third Society as each emotional moment is accompanied by the self-same piano arpeggios (from the film's Ballad Theme Angel Tonight).
It just goes to show that while Steel might never be the world's greatest director (but I'm the World's Greatest Critic in name only) it's quite possible that Steel's best movie is ahead of her. As a serious film The Third Society is heavily rooted in the 1980's exploitative genre that gave us Revenge of the Ninja and Gymkata. The music is similarly trapped in the Me Decade. With some spit and polish and some corner cutting in the right way, this could have been better, and I believe it will be better on the next shot.
All told, The Third Society (a title I haven't reconciled with the film yet) gets a Dog! The intentions, the potential and the ideas are all there, but as it stands it's Hard-Core Action on a Hard Core Porn budget! In the "Easter Egg" Category, the (intentionally) not-too-well kept secret is that the Un-credited Jones was played by none other than JA Steel herself! That's right! And the producer, Jacquelyn A. Ruffner? JA Steel's real name. Ruffner wears a lot of hats, and the devotion to her vision is admirable, but perhaps spreading herself a bit less thin would be the key to a better next film! Now, if you'll excuse me, I myself have to enter in to the Critical Witness Protection Program. Extreme cycling Jones is a Rock-Hard Hardbody with Kickboxing Moves to match, and when she catches wind of this review, I'm meat. Granny Mašek's Best Boy should learn to watch his tongue! ANY QUESTIONS?
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