Girl Power: The Assault (1996)

Matty gives the thumbs-up to Jim Wynorski’s thrilling, female-fronted shoot-’em-up.

In this day and age, now that every old movie is considered ‘triggering’ and ‘problematic’, it’d be easy to pick apart Jim Wynorski’s sprawling filmography if you were so inclined. Neither Wynorski’s droll assertion that he “wanted to make movies for the money and the chicks” nor the big breasted beauties that line his rambunctious offerings would do anything to dissuade more insufferably right-on audiences that his films are little more than tawdry male fantasies at best and sexist trash at worst. Thing is, such a pandering and pompous assessment of the Chopping Mall (1986) maestro’s work is so grossly wrong it’s offensive. While Wynorski’s cinema is resolutely male in its gaze, the women at the centre of his stories aren’t just eye-candy: they might have whopping great hooters and favour the skimpiest clothing imaginable but, like Russ Meyer before him, Wynorski’s vixens are strong, ambitious, resourceful, and clever — typically more so than their male counterparts. And if anyone ever tries to claim otherwise, just show them THE ASSAULT

Headed by the director’s Ghoulies IV (1994) star, Stacie Randall, and his muse, Melissa Brasselle (who also co-wrote the film’s screenplay), The Assault is built around a compelling cast of well-written and very believable female characters. It’s a rousing and uplifting paean to the sisterhood — though Wynorski doesn’t shy away from probing the women’s deep-rooted issues either. Honest, unflinching, and laser-focused, The Assault is a vastly superior companion piece to the helmer’s dud feminist western, Hard Bounty (1995): a handsomely crafted but flatly scripted picture that was marred by a hoary ‘white knight’ performance from a badly miscast Matt McCoy. Despite also featuring here in a slightly similar capacity, McCoy’s participation is, thankfully, generally eschewed in favour of some primo girl power. Grouping together to beat insurmountable odds, one gets the distinct impression that even without the assistance of McCoy’s ex-marine-turned-handyman, Randall’s feisty cop and the rest of the empowered ladies pinned down by gunfire at a women’s refuge would come out swinging. 

Naturally, said threat is represented by an onslaught of violent blokes, specifically the eternally excellent Rick Dean as the big bad crime lord out to silence the refuge’s newest resident, Leslie Ryan. Granted, The Assault’s ‘battle of the sexes’ angle is a bit on the nose, but it’s never preachy and the film’s so fast-paced and made with typical slickness by Wynorski that it’s easy to ignore its minor contrivances (such as the fact that, really, Dean and his faceless rent-a-goons would have successfully killed everyone right away).

USA ● 1996 ● Action ● 83mins

Stacie Randall, Matt McCoy, Melissa Brasselle, Rick Dean, Leo Rossi Dir. Jim Wynorski Wri. Steve Jankowski and Melissa Brasselle, from a story by Melissa Brasselle 

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