Year Released: 2001
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 90 minutes
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Korean-born filmmaker Young Man Kang, who is best known for spending exactly $980 to create the charming romantic feature “Cupid’s Mistake,” has returned with a somewhat larger budget and a more ambitious project: a nifty little spy thriller entitled “1st Testament: CIA Vengeance.”
The film begins with one of the most unusual montage sequences devised, following three highly unlikely characters with different goals. First, a knockout blonde in a too-tight red dress discovers her car is out of gas and calls on a friend–a knockout blonde in a too-tight blue dress–to give her a ride. Elsewhere, a dapper African-American gent who is handed an envelope by a mysterious person quickly reads its contents, and then burns the paperwork. Meanwhile, a bald man is vigorously shampooing what’s left of his hair in a hot shower while singing out loud. Incredibly, these diverse characters wind up together within the course of a few minutes…but explaining the circumstances of their reunion and the results of their sharing the same space would give away the fun of this movie.
Indeed, “1st Testament: CIA Vengeance” is fueled with an infectious sense of fun that recalls the glory days of low-rent/high-entertainment B-Movies and the page-turning excitement of classic pulp paperback novels. The plot is quite a hoot, with a veteran CIA agent who gets tired of gunning down bad guys and receives a new assignment to train a glamourous South Korean operative to assassinate the leader of North Korea. Of course, the South Korean spy is not who she seems to be and the CIA agent discovers himself on the wrong end of a spook-factory betrayal.
Much of the success with “1st Testament: CIA Vengeance” is derived from the wonderful cast, leading off with Ron Becks as the CIA agent in the center of the action. Becks, who also wrote the screenplay, creates a genuine action character who is mercifully free of the endless wisecracking and stunt-excessive shenanigans generally associated with spy thrillers. Offering a surplus of world-weariness with a fragrant trace of cynicism, Becks’ character is a mature gentleman who has seen too much, regrets too much, and rues the loss of humanity which his job has robbed him. He is a professional, to be sure, yet his spy work has left him near-empty, with only a residue of self-respect keeping him free from emotional sterility. It is a fascinating character and a wonderful performance, a major kudo to Becks’ talent as a writer and actor.
However, it is very difficult to keep focused on Becks in a film which is literally overflowing with beautiful women. I cannot recall any film which has brought together so many knockout gorgeous ladies together…it seems as if each new scene brings yet another hot babe in front of the camera. With the extraordinary beauty of Soo J. Kim as the South Korean operative, Iva Hasperger and Lynne Langdon as the aforementioned blondes with the out-of-gas car, Kimmarie Johnson as a disillusioned nightclub singer, Jasmine Jong Ok Kang as the grieving (yet gorgeous) widow of an assassinated operative, and Gina Hiaizumi as a stripper on the CIA payroll (and that’s just for starters!), this film will send die-hard girl-watchers into a cold shower to calm down. It is a shame that casting agents don’t receive Oscars…whoever cast this film would be guaranteed the golden statuette.
Oddly, the film’s one mistake is the casting of the monotonous Luciano Saber as a CIA officer. This is fairly strange as the actor actually brings some depth to his role: he had served in the U.S. Air Force and was stationed in the Pentagon’s Office of Special Investigations. Whatever experience and insight he gained in uniform, it is conspicuously absent in his dull and vacant performance.
“1st Testament: CIA Vengeance” is a pure energy film kick which offers plenty of diversion, amusement and style. The film is also the first part of a planned trilogy, and parts two and three cannot come soon enough.
Posted on October 30, 2001 in Reviews by Phil Hall
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