Federal Protection (2002)

(On DVD, July 2003) Flashback alert! What does a movie about a federally-protected ex-hitman moving in a quiet suburban neighbourhood remind you of? Yes, that’s right, The Whole Nine Yard. This straight-to-video film not only replays the same basic idea, but also does so in Montréal, which here unconvincingly stands-in for “Little Rock, Arkansas”. (No amount of American flags and lone US-Post mailboxes can hide the characteristic architecture, Canadian money and equally-lone Canada Post mailboxes) Armand Assante is the “Bruce Willis” of this film, though the character dynamics beyond that change a lot: Here, he seduces the neighbour’s wife while her husband is in cahoots with his mistress to reveal Assante’s location to the mob. Yes, it really sounds like a rip-off, but it’s executed with some competence and the result is a great deal more interesting than you’d expect from such a premise. Dina Meyer is frequently hot as the mistress and Assante does a lot to help the film’s credibility. Also notable is the film’s intention to play most of the story straight, with only occasional comedic moments. The finale is far too long, the budget is limited, some of the tone shifts are uncomfortable and the “ripoff!” impulse never goes away, but it’s a decent enough film, better than some of the worst things I’ve seen in theatres this year. The DVD contains no special features of note.

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