Jekyll Island (1998)- * *
Directed by: Ken DuPuis
Starring: Don Mogavero, Brion James, Everett McGill, Olivia Burnette, Finola Hughes, and Phil Morris
Alex Madison (Mogavero) is a college professor whose class seems to be "Criminal Studies". In other words, he teaches his impressionable young charges all about robbery, burglary, and how to get away with either one. No one seems to mind, or notice, that this is what he is teaching. In any case, Mr. Madison knows of what he speaks, as he is some sort of master jewel thief by night.
So, naturally, Madison goes to Jekyll Island, Georgia (which is a real place, in case anyone out there didn't know) to steal some jewels. Things get complicated when a politician, Lawton Goodyear (James) and his daughter Savanah (Burnette) get entangled with Madison's thieving ways. Madison ends up hiding out in a house with Savanah, and Goodyear sends his security guy, Dalton Bradford (McGill), to find out what's going on. In the midst of all this, a detective named Ronnie Fredericks (Hughes) is hot on Madison's trail, and Carlton Johnson (Morris) is antagonizing Madison. Now that the whole island is locked down, will Alex live to teach criminal behavior to marginally-interested 90's teens ever again? Will he escape with the jewels - AND HIS LIFE? You probably will never have to find out!
(Shaking head) Oh, Mogavero, Mogavero, Mogavero. What hath you wrought this time? As if Pressure Point (1997) was not enough, along comes Jekyll Island. You get the odd impression while watching it that HE thought that this was some pretty snazzy stuff. This is at odds with the fact that there's not much here that would appeal to most video renters. The plot is dull and uninvolving, the writing stale, the camerawork and lighting pedestrian, and the pacing nonexistent.
At least Moges (as we call him) had the good sense to surround himself with some quality actors this time around. Sure, Pressure Point had Steve Railsback and Larry Linville - we're always down for some Linville - but he upped his game with this follow-up, getting Brion James, Everett McGill, Finola Hughes, and Phil Morris, whose name might not be known, but he's been in tons of stuff and is best known as Jackie Chiles from Seinfeld. As this was 1998, he was hot off that role, although here he's more Mario Van Peebles or Fred Williamson-esque. In any case, the downside for old Moges with getting all this starpower was that it made his performance seem even more stilted, oddly and unnecessarily quiet, and awkward than it already was.
The City Heat VHS puts Mogavero's face front and center on the box. We know not why. Was Mogavero ever famous enough to warrant that? Were City Heat trying to position him as some kind of badass? I mean, yeah, he KIND of looks like Robert Englund, but that's not really enough.
To be fair, we are treated with some 1998 internet, and there is one cool (and highly ridiculous, in a good way) scene towards the end. Unfortunately, this is not enough to justify the other 90 minutes. If we really reach, we could say that Alex Madison goes to Jekyll Island as an expression of his dual self - i.e., college professor by day, jewel thief by night - much like a certain JEKYLL and Hyde duality. But we're not even sure this was done on purpose. That being said, in the cast list during the end credits, a yacht gets its own credit amongst the other actors. That's right, "Yacht - The Milly B" is seen along with the other thespians. This may be the first time an inanimate object gets CREDIT. Hey, some of the actors were wooden but this is ridiculous!
In the end, there's no legitimate reason why anyone would expend effort to see Jekyll Island. If there were some odd circumstance where this movie fell into your lap, and you wanted to see a Brion James performance you haven't seen yet (and one worthwhile scene late in the film), MAYBE you could justify it. But if we're all being honest with ourselves, as painful as that can be sometimes, we should probably face the fact that this was just some Blockbuster shelf-filler.
Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty