The Job

Assassination didn’t work out? Why not an impluse abortion?
★
☆☆☆☆☆
Released: 
2003
Director: 
Kenny Golde
Starring: 
Daryl Hannah, Brad Renfro, Dominique Swain, Alex Rocco
The Setup: 
Assassin has emotional issues that keep her from killing her target.
Discussion: 

Netflix has hit the sweet spot with two amusingly awful movies lately. I mean: I know Netflix is lousy with bad movies and direct-to-video sludge and anything that couldn’t make it anywhere else, which usually buries me in a deluge of terrible choices until I often turn away without watching anything, but these last two terrible movies I’ve watched had enough entertainment value to make them worth sitting through. The first was the shockingly idiotic APP, and now this, which has considerable B-movie laughs. I was drawn to this by seeing star Daryl Hannah’s face on the cover, trying to look oh so dangerous behind her plastic-surgery distorted face and the wispy, windblown look of the salon-perfect undercover assassin.

The other news is that this boasts a pretty impressive cast of good actors who never amounted to much in the mainstream. You have Brad Renfro, who may only do mumbling losers, but does them excellently, Dominique Swain of the devastating Adrian Lyne Lolita, and even wonderful gruff character actor Alex Rocco, who we first noticed after his excellent performance in Detroit 9000. This is written and directed by Kenny Golde, who is very talented in some ways… and needs a lot of help in some others.

We open with Daryl as CJ, shadowing her target at the coffee kiosk of a LA office building’s lobby. The coffee KIOSK, I said. Her method of remaining inconspicuous is to slouch by the elevator, her white knit cap pulled down over her stylishly spiked hair, keeping her eyes lowered. She follows a guy, goes into his apartment and shoots him, taking his briefcase back to her spectacular, spacious loft… only to find that the briefcase is empty! She then reports to Rocco as Vernon, who asks her if she finished the job. She has to admit that since she doesn’t have the briefcase—which held 100k in drugs—she did NOT finish the job, which starts to make you feel like “So… WHY did you come?” Rocco says some stuff that’s supposed to be vaguely threatening, but mostly seems irrelevant [discussing women who are named after flowers], and tells her don’t come back until she finishes the job.

Meanwhile, Brad Renfro and Dominique Swain are a white-trash couple, she very pregnant and smoking constantly. This African-American fellow did the old “put your identical briefcase down right next to the real briefcase at the office building lobby coffee kiosk,” as Daryl recalls with her super-sensitized-memory powers [which unfortunately failed when she SAW it happen], and now the black guy is going to sell it to Renfro so that he and Swain can run away and have their baby. They go over to the black guy’s house, where guns are soon blazing and the black fellow ends up dead, Renfro shot in the hand. Swain starts racking up big points as she cannot help her boyfriend with his massive blood loss because, like, SHE’S UPSET, and the glacial speed with which she goes to get him a paper towel—only to be stuck with the last remnant of tissue clinging to the cardboard tube—won her big points with me! And she only continues to get better… like in a scene a few moments later, when she has a seizure and is taken to a… clinic of some kind, a storefront thing that apparently does births, abortions, and basically anything related to babies. You’ll notice what they’re trying to pass off as a hospital room is obviously just a bedroom. Anyway, Swain scores again when the doctor asks her if she’s been smoking while pregnant and she replies “Just cigarettes!”

So Daryl hides out in her car taking pictures of the young couple and… why? What does she need pictures of them for? I think just because it’s what spies are supposed to do. By the way, in here we’ve started to have some flashbacks that show us that Daryl’s mama was a whore who routinely had sex [with the same guy, apparently] in front of her young daughter. In the present day, Daryl finds out that she’s pregnant! Probably from one of her binges in which she goes into a bar wearing a camisole beneath a tan raincoat, where she orders “cheap vodka, straight up!” gets drunk and has sex with some big nasty abusive guy. She happens across Rick, super-nice guy and savior in the Paul Reiser mold who starts protecting her against her will, despite her throwing him all kinds of “We both know I’m not the kind of girl for a guy like you” shade. We’ll get back to him.

So Daryl follows the young couple to the storefront all-things-prenatal clinic, where she stands fully visible outside the window with gun raised. She waits for Renfro and Swain to leave—with the backpack full of drugs—but… she can’t do it! She just can’t kill them, because Swain is pregnant—and so is she! Of course, it is abundantly clear right now that she could have easily run by, grabbed the bag with the drugs, and made off with it without shooting anyone. So what does Daryl do? She goes into the clinic to arrange an abortion for herself! That’s multitasking. I mean, she’s right there, so why not? Only, she storms out when she finds out she can’t get the abortion right then. I mean, we have same-day dry cleaning, do we not? So what’s the problem?

Back at the bar, Daryl—who maybe should be working on getting those drugs, right?—rejects Rick, then is violently raped by a guy she took into a stall in the bar bathroom. The rest of the movie is going overboard to show us what a badass, take-no-shit woman Daryl is, so you’re kind of expecting her to kick the guy’s ass, but no—she gets raped [offscreen]. She turns out not at all to be a feminist role model in charge of her own life, and you might take note—with all the emphasis on women’s psychology and all the stuff about childbirth and abortion—that this is all written by a man. Anyway, Rick takes her home, and we learn that Rick used to be a priest. We’ve also seen on two occasions that Daryl Hannah cannot puke convincingly.

Back to Renfro, he was going to sell to this scummy guy who decided not to buy and tells him “Why don’t you get outta here before I go all Boba Fett on your ass?” Now, there are some good things about the film, and one thing I really liked is the idea of these two completely inexperienced kids tasked with selling big-time drugs, which they are not at all prepared to do. He makes arrangements to sell the $100 thousand of drugs for a mere $55k, because of his inexperience, but even that deal fouls up. The whole movie keeps extending and extending them getting rid of the drugs, which leaves them, for the most part, guarded by helpless idiot Swain, so as we see Daryl hanging at home, making dates with Rick, going to diners, doing some supposedly-related “work,” you start to be like “WHY doesn’t she just go GET the drugs? Just go in, hold a gun on Swain, and walk out with them, or grab them during the many opportunities in which Swain or Renfro is walking around with them in a backpack. For example, when Daryl is just hanging out in a diner [she is the laziest hitwoman], and Swain walks in with the backpack, and all Daryl has to do is come up behind and grab it. Then Swain goes into the restroom, and Daryl follows her in, gun drawn, ready to blow her AWAY, when Swain asks her to hand her some toiler paper, and Daryl gets all mushy and sweet and simply can’t blow this woman away, especially as she’s pregnant… which is FINE, all you have to do is REACH UNDER THE STALL AND GRAB THE BACKPACK. No one has to die. So, it’s a bit of a problem when the major plot driver of a film could be easily resolved in a few seconds with minimal effort, but the characters are spending all their agonizing over how traumatic it all is.

By the way, this all happens after one of Swain’s most glorious white trash moments, after the couple have decamped to a shitty two-story motel, and she is seen finishing a bag of crackers before calling the lobby and asking “Hey… do you guys have any vending machines?”

SPOILERS > > >
I GUESS it’s time to denote spoilers? Kind of hard to say exactly when with a movie like this. But we certainly need them now, when Daryl, upset that she’s losing her edge and can’t just put a cap in this woman’s head because of that god-darn FETUS inside her, decides that he has to get her mojo back by giving herself a wire-hanger abortion! One person on IMDb describes having to turn the movie off here because of not wanting to see how this sequence came out. And let’s once more keep in mind that this view of women’s psychology comes from a man. Anyway, Rick shows up [WHY is he there? HOW did he get in?] and saves her just in time. Still, she goes the next day to get an abortion at the storefront Maternity Hut, where she’s ready to get that little dude or dudette vacuumed clean away—BUT SHE CAN’T! And by this time you’re like “DO YOU OR DO YOU NOT HAVE A JOB TO DO?” Then she goes to mobster boss Vernon [Rocco, remember?] and tells him that she hasn’t done shit… so WHY GO? What is this woman thinking? She announces to him that she’s made up her mind, she’s keeping her baby, oh yeah, she’s gonna keep her baby, ooooh, and also, get out of “the business.” He takes all this as well as you think he might, and tells her to get the fucking drugs. This is clearly a problem employee. Maybe this movie is intended as a modern Bartelby.

Anyway, Renfro and Swain’s relationship has been feeling the strain, and they’re now at the point of him screaming “How do I know it’s even my baby!” While he’s out, Daryl, temporarily interested in her job, comes over and threatens Swain. Now, I’ll admit to having many [perhaps too many] daydreams to amuse myself, and when I think of making a bunch of satirical content to run on a comedy TV channel, I often imagine short promos for a show called “Please Don’t Kill My Baby!” as in: “This week, Sally Field stars in a very special episode of Please Don’t Kill My Baby!” then then the clip would end with that week’s guest star uttering the title phrase. See? That’s my sense of humor. Anyway… imagine my delight to hear Swain actually screech the phrase not once—but twice!

She goes out and finds Renfro… Daryl is quite, quite casual about walking around with an exposed gun… and they have a shootout, one in which, again, she has several opportunities to just SNATCH THE BAG, but she gets shot [in the shoulder, akin to a hangnail] and she fucking FAILS AGAIN! Renfro goes home and treats his wounded hand, and once more, Swain is hilariously tardy in handing him a helpful towel. Look, he may be bleeding excessively, but she has HER FEELINGS to deal with! Anyway, in a new, unexpected surprise, she tells him “I can’t run with you like this,” takes a gun and pops the sucker between the eyes! Now, what, SHE’S going to sell the drugs herself? What is happening? It’s gone haywire!

Daryl goes to the motel, like, “Okay, I am FINALLY going to get those drugs and be done with this shit!” but Swain isn’t home, so… “Well, foiled again! Nothing to do but go home and catch some much-deserved Z’s!” Later, Swain goes to the storefront Maternity N’ More: Babies Delivered / Aborted, and demands to be induced RIGHT THEN. But she can’t be, so she pulls a gun on the poor staff [who patiently suffer many indignities throughout the film], and takes off. By the way, she has always been inexplicably clutching this backpack throughout several medical procedures, and the staff have politely never asked her about it. Anyway, she takes off.

She is driving desperately, when who should pull up alongside her, but Daryl! She decided to really give it one more try this time. Daryl waves her gun and tells her to just throw the bag, and no one will get hurt. You see, it’s too irrational to just go grab the bag from unsuspecting Swain while unarmed, and really, it only makes sense to have the desperate girl try to aim and throw a backpack, nearly as large as the car window, into the other car, while driving at top speed, while holding a gun. I mean—it just pays to do things the sensible way sometimes. Even though it may not be glamorous! Daryl gets a bullet in her direction for her suggestion, and they crash. Daryl is left unconscious, face-planted in the driving wheel, while Swain gets out and runs into a nearby diner, where she…. [we need a new paragraph to contain all that follows]

Where she… DELIVERS THE BABY IN THE BACK OF THE DINER! She gets a few moments of precious bonding time with her newborn child before she—cut to Daryl waking up and following her into the diner—cuts the umbilical with a knife and abandons the baby in the back of the diner! We don’t actually SEE any of this, #smallmiracles. She’s out in the street running with the bag—personally, I thought childbirth pretty much necessitated a few days, or at least ten seconds, of recovery time, but I—like writer/director Kenny Golde—am not a woman. Poor, recently concussed Daryl is running after her, and we have a last flashback. Throughout, we’ve seen Daryl having traumatic flashbacks of her mom being a whore, her mom being abused, her mom being ignored because the guy is married… and finally, little 8-year-old Daryl goes over with a gun and BLOWS THAT MOTHERFUCKER AWAY. I guess that’s why she’s so afraid to kill someone in her job as, you know, an assassin? Back in the present day, she sees Swain cowering amongst some cardboard boxes, get ready to finally end this business, and… gets shot while Swain gets away with all the drugs. Honestly, I really have to agree with Daryl’s career-change plan, although I really can’t say that I know what job she is suited for. Moping? Is someone paid for moping? Actually, I have personal interest in opportunities in this field. Can I create some kind of mobile job alert?

We get a final image of Daryl, very pregnant [getting shot in the abdomen causes no harm to fetuses] and contemplating her next movie. Which, knowing her as we do by now, probably includes going straight home and having a nap, some Ben n’ Jerry’s, and seeing what’s on pay-per-view.
< < < SPOILERS END

Oh dear, I haven’t watched something this unintentionally funny and consistently amusing in quite some time. It’s a winner! And like most really good bad movies, there is a kernel of it that’s okay, perhaps even verging on good, that keeps it watchable and engaging. For me, it was the whole angle of these inexperienced kids suddenly trying to make it in the world of big-time drug dealers. And Brad Renfro and Dominique Swain are both excellent and convincing at playing white trash. But it’s the badness that keeps it going… the fact that Daryl is supposedly this hardened hitwoman [with salon-glamorous hair] who does almost nothing all day, and when she does work, merely does what anyone has seen hit-people in movies do—that is, hang out in a knit cap [inconspicuous!] and take photos from her car, stuff like that. She’s kind of inherently funny, and the man’s-eye-view of women’s psychology doesn’t help [we’ll get back to this]. Then there’s Swain, who not only is a monstrously white trash horrible mother, but one on steroids and with great, great lines and deliciously self-centered and/or oblivious moments. One of them would make it pretty amusing. Together, they take it over the top.

Key to what this is—however it may have turned out—is that we have a man trying his hard at female psychology, and providing only evidence that he is out, way out, of his depth. A beautiful female assassin, hey, who’s to say they don’t exist? But it’s more likely that they exist as male sexual fantasies more often than in real life. Then on the one hand, we’re supposed to believe that she is a hardened killer at the top of her game, but she goes back to her boss without having gotten the thing he wants. Then she finds out that she’s pregnant, which keeps her from killing another pregnant woman [although, as demonstrated numerous times, she doesn’t have to], which is a man’s view of “maternal feelings” that are at odds with her supposedly being a hardened hitwoman. This is not to mention the sudden wire hanger abortion, which is a topic so serious I would advise even the most responsible movie to shy away from it. Also highly suspect as more male sexual fantasy than authentic female psychology is that, because she was traumatized as a child, she goes out to bars, willfully gets drunk and allows herself to be violently abused/raped by roughneck guys? I mean, I know that’s what I do, but that’s the point: MALE psychology.

Anyway, so while writing that, I was like “Who IS this Kenny Golde guy? I need to see a picture of him.” And a simple Google search got me… so much more. I found this article about how he “Negotiated his way out of $150,000 in debt” which he had racked up in financing his films, and how he essentially got banks to give up on getting their money back from him, then wrote a book about it. You can make of it what you may!

Regardless, the movie is out there on Netflix, it’s not long, it’ll give you a lot of laughs, and has enough twists and turns and unintentional amusement it’s good for one night’s entertainment! The next night is up to you…

Should you watch it: 

Yes! If you like really bad action movies and white trash criminals.

Comments

You should check out Briar Patch (2003). It has this vibe like maybe it was adapted from a play, it's a bit laid back and Lolita/Wuthering Heights themed, and I remember being really surprised at the time by how good it actually was when it could've been just a derivative riffing off a cliché.

Never heard of it, but I'll look into it!