Protector (1998) – Review

3 Stars

Remember back in the late 1990s, when the seemingly bi-weekly releases from No Limit records had embossed, glossy cover-art? It was a popular fad that made the cheap product appear to have a value far greater than was actually contained within. B-Movie companies got in on the act as well, none more prominently than Sterling Home Ent. which released Protector in the aforementioned flashy video sleeve. It’s an unnecessary marketing gimmick but does catch the eye, especially with the noticeable image of star Mario Van Peebles holding two large guns straight ahead. The image and tagline sell the picture as a Dirty Harry knock-off which is false, Protector share a lot more in common with erotic thrillers like Jade and Body of Evidence, not the most esteemed company I’ll admit. So it’s somewhat shocking that Protector hold together fairly well from a story stand-point and moves quickly enough so that the audience won’t be left to ponder some of the more implausible moments in the script.

Jack Valentine (Van Pebbles) is working a sting operation on one of New York’s biggest Mafia bosses when someone slaughters the aging Don and Valentine has the audio recording of the whole event. He becomes obsessed with tracking down the killer and the key witness to the murder is a mysterious call-girl who is playing both sides to her advantage. Valentine’s partner Phil Kelly (Randy Quaid) is on the fence about the relationship developing between Jack and the witness, a beautiful ex-Mob moll (Zehra Leverman) who is concealing vital information for her own agenda. With only 10 days to crack the case before he’s pulled by his superiors or killed by Mob figures, Valentine is in the crossfire of a gangland vendetta and police corruption.

The career of Mario Van Peebles is an enigma. This is an obviously talent director who has helmed too few movies of his own, yet turns in solid performances in everything he appears in. Whether playing a cyborg, a futuristic Norseman, a cop, or Malcolm X; Van Peebles is excellent and memorable in every skin he wears. Protector is notable for assembling a nice supporting cast in Randy Quaid, Zerha Leverman, Rae Dawn Chong and Ben Gazzara. These good actors in smaller roles move along exposition scenes that can be deadly when viewing movies of this level. Worth a look on a rainy afternoon.

Director: D.B. Clark
Stars: Mario Van Peebles, Rae Dawn Chong, Randy Quaid

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