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Federal Protection
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by Scott Weinberg

"Yet another crime-time cable flick. Only a bit more fun than usual."
3 stars

Every bit as familiar and predictable as its title may suggest, "Federal Protection" is certainly not destined for any originality awards (if such an unwinnable award even exists), though it may please your "goofball cable flick" synapses just long enough to see the end credits show up.

Best described as The Whole Nine Yards minus all the pratfalls and silliness, Federal Protection is as mindless and forgettable as it is slovenly enjoyable.

Stop me when this sounds familiar: A former Mafia lieutenant is betrayed by his pals, escapes an assassination attempt, turns stoolie on the witness stand, and ends up in Arkansas thanks to the FBI's witness protection program. Instead of Bruce Willis' Tony the Tulip we now have Armand Assante's Frank Carbone, and in lieu of a stammering Matthew Perry we're now offered two sultry sisters played by Angela Featherstone (apparently my generation's Amy Madigan) and the ultra-sexy former Starship Trooper Dina Meyer.

Featherstone plays the sweet sister Leigh - who we just know is going to fall in love with the dangerous newcomer, while Meyer sinks her teeth into the role of the devious sexpot witch called Bootsie with visual glee. See, Frank's new neighbors figure out who he is after only about a week in suburbia, and pretty soon everyone's falling all over themselves to turn him in for the million-dollar contract fee. (Considering the amount of television time dedicated to Frank's face (head shots and in profile) I'm stunned the greedy dolts didnít finger him on Day One!) It seems that Leigh's husband and Leigh's sister have been enjoying a rather kinky affair, so the perturbed housewife promptly picks up a golf club and cracks hubby's nose wide open.

Thus begins a story of spiraling silliness in which one sister heads off to Chicago to extort some money from the mob, while the weepy one finds solace in the arms of the FBI's favorite stoolie. If you can predict that both sisters, several Italian gunmen, and two dozen cops eventually converge in one spot and kill some from each group, then youíve also seen the half-dozen movies that Federal Protection borrows from mercilessly. The movie has massive plot holes and the occasional lapse in character logic so large you could plant corn in it...

But (and this is where the B-movie Golden Rule comes into effect) Federal Protection, despite its plot thievery and pulpy drama, is never boring. Since everyone and their executive producer feels content to crib plotlines whole from earlier movies, I suppose thereís no real point in complaining about it. But if youíre committed to producing a blatant rip-off, at least make it an entertaining one. For the most part, this one is pretty fun.

Iíve always contended that Armand Assante is a vastly underrated actor, and his solid performance here repeatedly prevents the film from diving off the Cliff of Outright Stupidity. Itís far from Assanteís best work, but he lends an air of credibility that most b-movie actors are not even familiar with. Another actor Iíve been watching for a while is the waify redhead Angela Featherstone, whom I first noticed in a cool little horror flick called Dark Angel. Though sheís mainly saddled with the straight gal role this time around, Featherstone manages a few enjoyable moments alone with Assante... plus this gal packs a mean wallop with a nine-iron! Hell hath no fury and all that stuff.

The one performer who seems to be having a real ball is redheaded minx Dina Meyer. As a growling and vicious femme fatale, Meyer slinks and sidles and spits venom through nearly all of her scenes, and the girl's simply fun to watch. (She also gives a colorful illustration as to why you should never try and wrestle with an angry bitch who's wearing stiletto heels!) Even if Federal Protection were one of those avoid at all costs cable flicks, I could recommend it solely for Meyer's sinful performance.

Perhaps it's only because I see five movies a week that are even stupider than Federal Protection that I can give it a mild recommendation. Sure, there's virtually nothing here you haven't seen before and the whole production is definitely of the "color-by-numbers" school of design. Luckily, the colors used this time were vibrant enough to keep me from nodding off.

Genre director Anthony Hickox (Waxwork, Full Eclipse) keeps the movie running along at a brisk clip, never slowing down to apologize for the script's plagiaristic nature, and manages to deliver a surprise or two along the way (most of which come courtesy of Ms. Dina Meyer). As far as cable movies go, you could do a hell of a lot worse.

That may not be too rousing of a recommendation, but it's about what the movie deserves.

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originally posted: 04/30/04 20:05:36
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User Comments

5/16/10 nile defalco i enjoyed it. the stunts are first rate. the women are gorgeous. gr8 l8 nite viewing 4 stars
9/13/08 Dan N. Enjoyable B-actioner, especially Dina Meyer's performance. 4 stars
1/23/07 Jeff Anderson More entertaining than THE WHOLE NINE YARDS. Meyer(sexy as hell & gr8 fun)STEALS THIS FILM! 5 stars
10/21/05 Gary Derman Obviously must better than this review might indicate. 5 stars
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  04-Jun-2002 (R)



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