Model by Day (1994) Review

Rating: 1.5 Stars

The following review contains spoilers.

Overview:

We start out with Lex (Famke Janssen, just before Goldeneye and years before she played a more well-known superhero in X-Men) overseas for a modeling shoot involving bikini girls and a reluctant camel. Some German tourists show up to hassle the shoot’s photographer and ogle the girls, and Lex puts them in their place with a roundhouse kick. That’s right, she may be a model, but she’s also a black belt in tae kwon do, and loves to show it off. Her sensei, the wheelchair-bound Master Chang (Clark Johnson, of The Wire), tries to help her control her anger issues, but he can’t stop her from waging a one-woman war on crime after her roommate is carjacked and winds up in the hospital.

Dressed in tiny shorts, a cross-backed sports bra, and a bizarre helmet-like headcovering, she finds the beefy middle-aged white dudes (who are both dressed like they’re getting ready to meet their girlfriend’s daughter for the first time at Applebee’s) who carjacked her friend and kicks the hell out of them. Amateur video of Lex running away, focusing on the X on her back, earns her the nickname “Lady X.” But just taking down these carjackers isn’t enough for this adrenalin junkie, and she starts going out nightly, beating up muggers and other street criminals.

Soon a copycat Lady X has come on the scene, and she starts murdering high-ranking Russian mobsters, causing the police force, including the handsome Lt. Walker (Stephen Shellen, aka Nathan Fillion’s non-union equivalent) to start an all-out manhunt for Lady X. Can Lex capture the woman committing these crimes and convince Walker of her innocence?

This was not an easy movie to track down, and it’s a little hard to believe it even exists. It’s based on a very obscure indie comic that only produced two issues in 1990. It was adapted for the screen by Jeph Loeb, who went on to become a very successful TV and comic writer, and now runs the entirety of Marvel’s TV division. There’s not a lot known about it, with movie database sites unable to even agree what year it was released (I’m saying 1994 based on the website for the production company), or whether it aired on American TV or Canadian TV or both. Also, if this really was just a TV movie, there’s a surprising amount of swearing and full-frontal female nudity.

Best Parts:

I liked Sean Young’s over-the-top performance as Lex’s manager, Mercedes, and would’ve liked to have seen more of her.

Some of the cheesiness is appealing. I had to pause and go back when, in a montage of Lady X beating up crooks, the cops are interviewing a little kid wearing overalls with just one-strap buckled like he’s Li’l Abner, and the kid just solemnly makes an X with two fingers to identify her. There’s another scene where Lex climbs into someone’s window when she’s trying to escape pursuit, and wakes up a teenage boy who has a poster of her on his wall. She assures him this is a special service for her most-dedicated fans, signs his poster, and walks out. Later on there’s a shoot-out in a Chinese restaurant that’s also a warehouse for old parade floats for some reason, so that’s different, though they fail to use the floats in any interesting way.

When Lex’s roommate is jogging in the park, instead of listening to music, she’s listening to prank phone calls and cracking up.

Worst Parts:

There’s not much of a story here. We seem to be getting set up for Lex to learn some kind of lesson about her anger issues and her cockiness, but in the end there’s no character arc for her or anyone else. The fight choreography – and look I wasn’t expecting greatness from Model by Day – is truly terrible. Lex’s kicks never really seem all that competent for a black belt, and most fights are just quick-cut close-ups of legs and then people falling down, without even an attempt to make it seem like an actual fight is happening. For a movie about a model that dresses like a sexy Halloween costume version of The Phantom and is borderline addicted to kicking people, it’s not nearly weird enough. It’s all rather plain-jane, with too-few unique moments to wake-up the viewer.

The copycat Lady X is defeated when the rope she tied to a rooftop to help her rappel down the side of a building simply comes undone and she falls to her death. It pretty much would’ve happened if the real Lady X was on the scene or not. Lex could have just stayed home once the murders started and everything would have resolved in the same way.

When Lex is brought in for questioning by Lt. Walker, there’s an overly long parody of that famous scene from Basic Instinct, with Lex crossing and uncrossing her legs while sweaty police officers look on, before Lex chastises them: “I’m wearing panties!” She then proceeds to guess what type of underwear each officer is wearing, with apparently perfect accuracy.

In two different scenes with two different characters the camera takes a foots-eye-view as the character does flips down the street and it’s a little nauseating.

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