Why isn’t Thomas Jane a bigger star? He’s handsome, he does action very well, he has a sense of humor, and he’s a pretty good actor. And he’s perfectly cast as the title character in GIVE 'EM HELL MALONE, a hard-bitten, two-fisted, wisecracking, fedora-sporting ‘50s private eye in the 21st century.
On a job to retrieve a mysterious briefcase, Malone walks into a bloody setup and spends the rest of the film trying to dodge the colorful bad guys who also want the case. There’s “big bad black motherfucker” Boulder (Ving Rhames, who else?), a giggling psycho named Pencil ‘Stache (David Andriole), a Japanese schoolgirl calling herself Lollipop69 (Chris Yen), and creepy pyro Matchstick (Doug Hutchison in a total ripoff of Heath Ledger in THE DARK KNIGHT).
And of special note, the boss of all these baddies, a big time pimp named Whitmore, is played by TRAPPER JOHN, M.D. star Gregory Harrison! Reuniting with the director of RAZORBACK (yeah, you know, the Australian killer-pig flick), Harrison is engaging in what is by far the best role he ever had in a feature film.
Once you buy into the parallel and virtually cop-free universe, MALONE goes down fairly well. It’s often clever, but never gets caught up in its own cleverness. Malone is hilariously difficult to kill, and though Mulcahy (HIGHLANDER) threatens to push the hyper-stylized comic-book material too far over the top into self-parody, he always manages to stay on the right side of the line. Mulcahy, who has never been interested in story, and writer Mark Hosack even give Malone a comic-book origin story similar to that of the Punisher (who Jane also once played), but the movie never makes it clear (until the end) whether the story is true or just something Malone dreamed up to frighten criminals.
Spanish actress Elsa Pataky (SNAKES ON A PLANE) has the look, but not the acting chops as Evelyn, the femme fatale. French Stewart is funny as a nightclub crooner, and Eileen Ryan has a couple of nice scenes as Malone’s mother. The actors all seem to get the material and the tone, making GIVE ‘EM HELL MALONE one of Mulcahy’s most accomplished films.