ederation Protection", a low-budget Action
B-Movie, suffers more from lack of originality than anything else. It's a good
film, with a decent cast, an oftentimes clever screenplay, and better than
average direction by Straight-to-Video veteran Anthony Hickox ("Hellraiser
3"). Essentially a remake of the big-budget "The Whole Nine
Yards" with Bruce Willis and Matthew Perry, "Protection" suffers
from déjà vu but very little else. Although, considering that I found
"Nine Yards" to be neither very funny nor exciting, and in general
quite dull, would another crack at the same storyline be so bad?
The film stars a gruff Armand Assante ("The Mambo
Kings") as Frank Carbone, a former member of the Chicago mob who goes into
the witness protection program after he survives an assassination attempt.
Finding himself in small-town USA, Frank intrigues housewife Leigh (Angela
Featherstone), his bored next-door neighbor. Meanwhile, Leigh's duplicitous
sister Bootsie (Dina Meyer), who is having an affair with Leigh's husband Dennis
(David Lipper), has discovered Frank's real identity and is actively trying to
sell him out to the mob.
The description above is almost entirely the premise of
"The Whole Nine Yards". Despite the lack of originality,
"Protection" does prove to be the better movie, if just slightly. This
may be because the screenplay by Craig Smith is a lot tighter and less prone to
go off on tangents, as was the case with "Nine Yards". Also, despite
minor comedy segments involving Dina Meyers in S&M gear, most of
"Protection" is played with a straight face. Although the scene where
Leigh, having figured out that Dennis is cheating on her, stalks her husband
with a golf club is quite inspired.
The movie's best scenes involve Dina Meyers ("Star
Trek: Nemesis") as she and her lover plot their way through the
dangerous Chicago mob. Meyers'
Bootsie is a happy-go-lucky adulterous, adventurer, and a woman who isn't sure
if she's really into S&M. And, as it turns out, Bootsie is quite a clever
and ferocious animal when cornered. On the flipside, Assante's relationship with
housewife Leigh is less successful. After one date, the two fall hopelessly in
love, and Leigh is ready to go on the lam with ex-gangster Frank. Yeah, right.
An aspect of "Federal Protection" that deserved
some attention is the presence of Steve Park, playing a Chinese hitman working
for the Chicago mob. I was intrigued by his addition, and wanted to know how an
Asian hitman was working for overtly racist Italian gangsters. Unfortunately
screenwriter Craig Smith didn't care as much as I did, so we know next to
nothing about Park's character. At just 90 minutes of running time, we don't
know much about anyone in "Protection"; then again, considering the
bloated nature of "The Whole Nine Yards", which seemed to go on for
way too long, maybe "Protection" knew when to cut its losses.
Armand Assante has mastered the swaggering gangster, so
Frank Carbone is a throwaway role for him. As for Dina Meyers, there's no doubt
she chose the Bootsie character over the lead played by Angela Featherstone. The
rest of the cast ranges from good to insignificant, but considering that
"Federal Protection" is a straight to video victim, it's a lot better
than one might expect. It certainly manages to overcome its existence as just a
"Nine Yards" clone, that's for sure.