Recently I saw two movies with Samuel L. Jackson dealing with teenagers who get involved in some serious situations. One featured him running a school for future assassins not unlike the Red Room program that created Black Widow and Not Dottie from Agent Carter, while the other one had him as the President relying on a 13 year old Finnish kid to escape assassins in the wilderness.
Let's start with Barely Lethal, which has been in the VOD circuit through Amazon, iTunes and DirecTV and should be in Redbox soon. Hailee Steinfeld, who's come a long way from the True Grit remake, plays Agent 83, a girl who's had enough of knocking off bad guys, She's able to fake her own death, and head to a nice normal town and a nice normal high school. She calls herself Megan, and approaches it like another one of her missions. She also bases her intel on several teen movies like Bring It On and Mean Girls. Naturally, she's attracted by the cool musician dude Cash (Toby Sebastian) while the AV guy Roger (Thomas Mann) looks on. It really becomes a typical movie about high school.
Maybe a bit too typical. There's also a slightly clueless mom played by Rachel Harris (prefer her nastier side in The Hangover) and Liz (Dove Cameron, Descendants, namely Malificent's daughter), the daughter who is upset over her parents' divorce and is very suspicious of Megan.
However, a prank that winds up on YouTube exposes Megan/83, and Jackson thinks she's working for someone else. Well, maybe being a normal teen means she's her own boss, but his attitude took me out of the film a bit. He's also not too good at disguising himself as a bus driver, either. Later, she's plagued by Agent 84 (Sophie Turner) who decides to horn in on Megan's life. She calls herself Heather and claims she knows Chris and/or Liam Hemsworth.
There's also Knox (Jessica Alba), an arms dealer that is captured by Jackson's crew, but later escapes. The problem with Alba's performance is that she's too Tori Spelling to be considered dangerous, even when we find out her true background. You want fashionable and dangerous? Rose Byrne in Spy is what Alba doesn't reach. Still, Alba has one good line about Jackson training second-graders to kill.
The movie is geared to teens, so it's not exactly like Spy Kids or any spy thriller. Still, it's interesting seeing a teen assassin be just as awkward as any other teen. It's also cool seeing Sophie Turner trying to clobber her rival agent at the prom. It's what everyone wishes Sansa Stark would do to Ramsey Bolton on Game of Thrones. Still, Jackson is there just as someone Megan doesn't want to be...not completely anyway.
However, Jackson is much better in Big Game, made in Finland by Jalmari Helander, who also directed Rare Exports (the Santa is not-so-jolly movie). Jackson plays the President who's on his way to a conference. He's also failing in the polls, and that does sound familiar. Terrorists attack Air Force One thanks to a mole inside the plane, but the President escapes. He's found by Oskari (Omni Tommila, who was also in Rare Exports) , a 13 year old who's trying to hunt a deer to fulfill the local manhood ceremony. However, the men in the town, including his dad, aren't sure he can do it. He can't even use a bow and arrow, Still, putting their skills together, Oskari and the President try to keep the terrorists, and the mole, from making the President their latest trophy...literally.
It turns out Oskari has better sense than his dad suspects, and it serves him well. Also, the movie is wise not to make Jackson as a bad-ass president. He actually has a tough time trying to fight the head bad guy. The movie also throws in a conspiracy connected with the attack, but it should have been less complex.
Another problem with the movie is that it's too short. Even with the credits, it's less than 90 minutes. If we had more backstory on the President and why he's not getting respect, and Oskari also not getting any respect (maybe five minutes of how he seems to be a terrible hunter), it would have been better.
Despite that, the story was compact and complete, even with one last twist at the end. It also appeals to adults and kids.
Barely Lethal is now available on DVD, including some deleted scenes, Big Game, meanwhile, will be released on DVD at the end of the month.