This movie is just plain great. Its a shoot-em-up movie that purposefully sets itself in to the world of a hard-boiled PI named Malone. It’s set in modern times, although Malone still wears a fedora hat, brown trenchcoat, and drives a 1940’s style car with whitewall tires.

The plot is driven primarily by a silver case which Malone is paid to retreive. He does it (although he has to shoot about 15 people, drop a guy out a window, rush down a fire escape, and get into a high speed chase). Once all this is accomplished he decides that the whole thing was a setup. He opens the case, removes the contents- which appears to be a blue elephant ornament and a bunch of junk, and then takes the empty suitcase back to his office.

He tells his partner that it was a setup, and demands to know who the client was that hired them. Naturally it turns out to be a sexy brunette (Elsa Pataky) whos brother has been kidnapped by the mob. She needs to exchange the contents of the case for her brother’s life.

When asked what was inside the case Malone cryptically replies “The meaning of love.”

As Malone tries to save the girls brother, and figure out who set him up, a few of goons- Boulder (Ving Rhames), Mauler (Chris Yen) and Matchstick (Doug Hutchinson) are sent out by a mob boss named Whitmore to kill Malone and recover the contents of the case. The rest of the movie is just great action sequences, some funny ‘tough guy’ wise cracks, and a lot of fun watching the characters interact (fight). There is, of course, a slightly twisted ending as all detective noir should have.

I loved all the characters in this flick. Malone is great on his own account (really, who doesn’t love the alcoholic, trigger-happy, hard boiled detective out to fight the mob?), but Ving Rhames really added a LOT to this movie by playing the somewhat sensitive hit man, Boulder– who really doesn’t like his job, but needs money to fund his wife’s medical bills. He’s a recovering alcoholic, and constantly reminds his boss that he’s trying to mend emotional fences. (in between tossing apartments, smashing the doorman’s face, and putting the strong arm on Malone)

Doug Hutchinson did a great job with Matchstick. Its one of those Hannibal Lector/Joker characters that you just sort of love to hate. He’s a total pyro who likes to set his victims on fire. Supposedly a sadist, who’s first scene in the movie depicts him torching a building while people are inside- screaming. He’s not really a scary character, but he is a lot of fun to watch all the way to the end.

Chris Yen plays Mauler- a young chinese girl who likes to play with knives and cut people up. (sort of a knock-off of the character from Kill Bill). She’s only in the movie for a couple of scenes, but she acts as a sort of wildcard that keeps things interesting, especially at the end.

It isn’t Shakespear, and it isn’t exactly ‘realistic and gritty’, but it is a lot of fun and a great action movie. It also has that great quality of being able to be watched more than once and still be great. Thumbs up all the way. Rent it, buy it, borrow it, whatever. There’s a little something for everyone in this flick.