Looking Back at John Woo’s Blackjack (1998) with Dolph Lundgren

Plot: Dolph Lundgren plays Jack Devlin, a U.S Marshal who protects high-profile clients when it comes to a matter of security.

You can tell from the first few seconds of Blackjack that it was meant to be a pilot for a TV series as the film has that made-for-television-in-the-90’s look about it. This gives it a somewhat cheap and dated feel, however, if you can get past that, Blackjack is actually a relatively decent action movie.

Directed by John Woo it has his signature style including slow motion, double gunplay and some impressive stunts. The highlight being the opening assault on a mansion which involves Dolph Lundgren jumping on a trampoline firing two guns at the bad guys before said mansion explodes rather spectacularly. Like many John Woo movies it also has several unintentionally hilarious moments but that is all part of the enjoyment factor.

Dolph Lundgren never disappoints and he’s suitably appealing as former U.S. Marshal Jack Devlin, who suffers from a rare case of leukophobia (fear of the colour white). This is apparently a real condition and yet it still feels hard to swallow as part of the story here and the scene where Jack is covered in milk by the villain is wonderfully bonkers.

Jack’s job is now protecting people and his latest charge is to save model Cinder James (Kam Heskin) from a deadly assassin (Phillip MacKenzie) who may be connected to her past. Cinder isn’t especially sympathetic at first and is a dug addict but as the story progresses, we find out a lot from her past which explains her behaviour. Phillip MacKenzie is quite unhinged as Rory Gaines making for a decent antagonist who get s satisfying comeuppance by the end.

There is one of the most bizarre random dance sequences I’ve ever seen in a movie where literally seconds after Jack saves Cinder from throwing herself off a rooftop it cuts to them both dancing. It happens so quick that the viewer is thinking they missed something but it’s just Jack trying to work the dope out of her system… maybe.

Fred Williamson shows up as Jack’s friend Tim Hastings and he’s the one that asks for his help with Cinder; I feel like Fred deserved a bigger role, but I imagine if this had been picked up as a series he would show up as a regular.

The pacing isn’t the greatest in Blackjack and in the second half it does drag a little, but it has a suitably action-packed finale with Jack overcoming his phobia to stop the assassin.

I can understand why this wasn’t picked up to be a full series as the concept is undeniably a hard sell but it would have been cool to see more of Jack Devlin and his battles with the evil colour known as white.

Overall, Blackjack isn’t one of John Woo’s finest hours feeling very much like a 90’s TV show and lacking the sheen of his bigger budget fare however, it still has some impressive action scenes with Dolph kicking ass and trying to avoid the colour white as much as possible.