The Super-Underrated Feminist Action Flick You Probably Haven't Seen

See Geena Davis play a badass CIA assassin with amnesia who can snap a deer's neck and kill a man with a freakin' pie!

Oct 25, 2011 at 1:00pm | Leave a comment

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Those 5 or so of you who follow my riveting late night movie-watching tweets on weekend evenings (@msemilymccombs) probably already know that one of my favorite movies, "The Long Kiss Goodnight" was on TV on Saturday night.

In TLKG, as enthusiasts just decided to call it, Geena Davis plays Samantha Caine, a suburban wife and mother who washed up on a Jersey beach 8 years earlier with no recollection of who she is. After a car accident returning from a Christmas party one evening, she suddenly begins to display what you mght think of as super-assassin skills. The pick above is her realizing she's a knife whiz while chopping vegetables for dinner. "I'm a chef!" she yells out moments before hurling the knife and pinning a tomato on to the wall.

Basically, it turns out that Samatha Caine is actuallly Charly Baltimore, former CIA assassin, and she teams up with morally dubious private detective Mitch Henessey (played by Samuel mother-effin' Jackson!) to find out the truth behind her past. The fun is in watching prim and proper Caine morph into uber-badass Baltimore, who can snap a deer's neck and kill a man with a freakin' pie!

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Caine even undergoes a full-on "bad Sandy makeover,"chopping and bleaching her hair, piling on the eyeliner and taking up smoking and drinking. As Henessey puts it, "Back when we first met, you were all like 'Oh phooey, I burned the darn muffins.' Now, you go into a bar, ten minutes later, sailors come runnin' out. What up with that?"

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Here's the feminist part: As her old persona fully emerges, Caine wrestles with the aspects of her new and old identities. At first she disdains her suburban life as Caine (who was actually a cover story she mistakenly adopted after the accident that left her with amnesia), but through Henessey begins to see that she was actually happy in her role as a wife and mother. She struggles to reconcile the two parts of herself, especially when her daughter is kidnapped by her old enemies and she must must rescue her while thwarting a terrorist plot. In the end, she returns to her identity as Samtha Caine, presumably also integrating parts of her now-remembered past life and personality.

Caine's two identities can be seen as an expression of two kinds of femininity: the good girl, at home with the husband and kids, and the bad girl, who in this case is REALLY bad, in fitting with the overblown comic book character of the film. Throughout the course of her journey, Caine learns to merge the two, and comes out as a happier woman because of it. Also, stuff blows up.

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Even if you aren't into my Women's Studies 101 critique of "The Long Kiss Goodnight" -- my boy Roger Ebert claimed it has "no real substance" -- this is still just a fun-as-hell action movie  with lots of explosions, quippy oneliners, and a chick kicking ass. And Davis supposedly did all her own stunts, so there's that.

Grab it on Netflix or check your local TV listings -- it's showing in my area on the Encore channels both Wednesday and Friday nights.

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