Why not build a thriller around Asia Argento? She has enough sensuality to conjure up menace in a matter of seconds, proving she’s god’s gift to the world of modern femme fatals. In the next moment, she’ll put on a puppy-dog frown or a Lolita smile, to make everything seem innocent. Argento wears irresistibly charming facades like the best of the high-priced call girls, and one look from one of her characters could lead an everyman right to destruction.
“Boarding Gate,” which saw a limited release and is now available on DVD, takes up Argento as its muse of a sort. Or should we say, as its centerpiece, for Asia serves as a tentpole for this insubstantial thriller. If she hadn’t taken the role, the film would have withered as a cable TV-grade erotic flick, more erotic in premise than execution. The filmmakers and publicity departments new what a score director Olivier Assayas made by filming Asia: the film’s image of the pistol-wielding actress in black bra and panties could sit atop her portfolio as an example of what stunts she can pull off.
She lends much inspiration to the film, but cannot inspire it in full. This is no fault to Argento, since “Gate” needs more than her. Her role as Sandra, an ex-prostitute – call it typecasting – is paired with Michael Madsen, who plays her ex-lover, Miles, soon to become her antagonist. As the film begins, Sandra reunites with Miles at his office to reminisce of their old, lustful times and ask for backing for a club. Madsen works off Asia’s energy well, though probably not under his own will. Yes, she’s that damn hot, and her body just won’t cool off. Even before she spreads ’em for her finger to creep past her underwear – shocking enough, though Asia’s done it before – Argento robs this scene from right under Madsen, thus taking control as she’s done in a number of roles. Later, when a lusty S&M scene turns Argento against Madsen, she stalks him with a gun, and even a nipple slip’s thrown in for good measure. To reveal the result will spoil the plot, but the real goods are all Asia, her rage and sexiness two flames doubling the heat. (To view the flame on high, check out Catherine Briellat’s excellent film, “The Last Mistress,” now in limited release and available On Demand.)
A murder sends Sandra from London to Hong Kong, where the trouble soon chases her. But these details of the plot hardly matter – the posh sets that glide by in this loosely framed film have more traction. When all the nonsense of “Boarding Gate” ends, only Asia remains in memory. She can light up the best and the worst of ’em.