“Now justice has a name…and a .45”
It’s my firm belief that, in all things creative, if you’re going to be bad, one should do so boldly. Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, for example, was bad in such a brilliant, well-crafted and gorgeous way, and was so deeply committed to its own screwed-up ideas that it was actually better in its badness than most “good” films. That’s one way to be boldly bad. The other way is to be blazingly incompetent and deeply stupid.
“The Third Society” is a heady admixture of a barely coherent, grade Z revenge plot, dialogue that sounds like it was mistranslated from the Cantonese, badly staged gunplay and even worse martial arts action. Combine this with a leading actress who combines the balletic grace and precision of a junior high school gym teacher with the charisma of California Governor Gray Davis and you have something truly memorable. What a surprise that she turns out to be none other than uncredited writer/director J.A. Steel (who also produced the movie under her real name, Jacquelyn A. Ruffner).
“The Third Society” is the apotheosis of ultra-touch chick, “Jones.” It seems that back in the seventies, a young girl witnessed the slaying of her parents by Asian drug runners. As part of a dimwitted international witness protection program, Jones and her far more attractive sister, Erica (Shannon Clay) are falsely listed as dead, renamed “Jones” and spirited away from the U.S. to Asia. (Remember, they’re a couple of white girls hiding from gangsters with tentacles throughout the Orient. I guess hiding them in Wisconsin would just be too easy.) Somewhere between the seventies and the year 2000, Jones turns into a “one-woman killing machine” with a “black ops” background and a Melissa Ethridge-haircut.
When the same gangster who killed her parents is involved in a bloody bank robbery/drug deal (or something, it’s kind of hard to tell), Jones is suddenly given a job with the L.A.P.D. Considering that Jones is a bloodthirsty, trigger-happy, revenge-crazed nut job, this make sense. This is also logical because, according to “The Third Society,” the L.A.P.D. is composed entirely of large-boned women.
In any case, Jones’ passion for “justice” (which to her means killing as many Asians as possible) leads to her sister getting kidnapped as bait for a trap laid by imaginatively-named bad-guy Wong (Benny Tjandra). This entire mess is narrated – endlessly – by Jones’ stereotypically no-nonsense, heavyset, African-American L.A.P.D. superior (Sonya Eddy), who at times seems to know the whole story, but at other times seems as confused as the audience. Between lame-a*s a*s kickings, Jones also engages in an unlikely flirtation with a wacky FBI dude (Russell Vann Brown) who seems to think it’s okay to bust into her shower unannounced and has no idea that Jones is, well, a little on the butch side.
Most of the time “The Third Society” wants to be a serious action/revenge thriller but at other times it veers into being a silly, lighthearted action flick. (One scene, the aftermath of a fight in which Jones murders a parking lot full of martial artists armed only with sticks, attempts “Naked Gun” style comedy.)
At some point, we finally hit the end credits, and then things really get strange. God is “credited” twice. (This is incorrect. As theologians have recently reminded us, atrocities should be blamed on man, not deities.) The film is dedicated to the memory of a Ventura county shore patrol officer, and we have endless, unfunny out-takes which only show us that our writer/director/producer/co-editor/star is unable to remember her own lines.
Oh, and I almost forgot the score (by James Henriques, Emily O’Neary and Robert Crane), which veers between miserable, ultra-bland pop and thudding quasi-heavy metal. Worth the price of admission.
Note: a little investigation on the production company’s website indicates that “The Third Society” is actually part of a multimedia project that will include video games, motorcycle tie-ins and another film. Hooray.