Just about every A-list Hollywood star sees their career fade, and the quality if projects they are involved in decrease. Just ask Bruce Willis. But, there is slumming it, and then there is SLUMMING IT.
The Job, the 2003 direct-to-video magnum opus from writer/director Kenny Golde, is a very dark, character-driven crime story starring Daryl Hannah as freelance mob assassin CJ March.
CJ is a damaged character. Her mother was a prostitute who seemed unable to hire a babysitter when CJ was a child, and who was then killed in front of CJ. In her adult life, when she’s not whacking people for mobster Vernon Cray (Alex Rocco), she’s downing shots of warm well vodka and banging strangers. She’s a self-destructive alcoholic who is in a deep funk, and she looks it. Hannah is done up in a ragged, disheveled manner that fits the character well, and her hangdog face looks as if it’s never smiled once in her life. I was skeptical at the casting at first. There is no believability when it comes to CJ being a hired killer, but the even more fucked up side of CJ is near-perfect.
Her latest assignment sees her chasing down twenty kilos of Vernon’s heroin that were stolen by an ex-junkie named Troy (Brad Renfro). He stole the heroin because he wants to make a big score that will set he and his young, and very pregnant, wife, Emily (Dominique Swain), up in a new city. It’s a stupid idea, as his plans are not thought out, and have a predictable amount of success.
Finally, there’s CJ’s love interest, a former priest named Rick (Eric Mabius), who falls in love, not with CJ, but with the idea of saving CJ. Because, although CJ is a killer, she’s also a damsel-in-distress just begging for some white knight to come and save her. Violent yet hesitant, steely and then shattered, CJ is the kind of character that has a little too much depth. Her character has been put through such a brutal backstory wringer that it’s comical. She’s not alone in the running for the shitty life sweepstakes in this flick.
Troy is a barrel of laughs all on his own. Renfro spends most of his time on screen staring at the ground, and it’s as if Troy is looking forward to climbing into his grave. He’s such a bummer, man. Even Emily, loyal all the way until the second she’s not, is crawling with issues. After all, it wasn’t good life decisions that led her to being with Troy.
What follows for the rest of the film is a cat and mouse game between CJ and Troy that a viewer is under no obligation to follow closely. That’s because, as written above, this film is a character study. It’s not the main plot that is most important, but the individual set pieces where Golde explores his characters, in excruciating fashion.
Character studies are all well and good, but the formula has to be more substantial than this. The characters are not shallow, which is good. But their stories are, which is bad. Their personal lives and personalities are so fucked up that there isn’t any hope for redemption. Having characters fail to achieve some form of karmic improvement is not a film sin, but to offer not even a tragic hint that there’s something to root for is just deadly.
The Job is a slog. By the 2nd act I was right there with CJ, feeling like drowning in a bottle of vodka was the only way to escape this film. I didn’t want to spend any more time amongst such unpleasantness, but I did. I did it for you, dear reader, to see if there was any payoff for the pain to which a viewer is subjected. There is not. This is an 83-minute long depression simulator. I’ve rarely been happier to see the credits roll. This downer of a flick falls way down the Watchability Index, bumping The Dungeon of Harrow out of the #308 spot. Stay away.