Comparing Senorita Justice to bad pornography would be generous.
Back in the days of brick and mortar video rental establishments, sandwiched between big displays of popular new releases, it was common to find a very special brand of movie. If you ever held a part-time job at a Hollywood Video, you may recall “fourth shelf titles,” films released directly to home video with horrible looking cover art, usually plagiarized from something currently out in theaters. Besides films like Transmorphers, there was always low-budget street fair aimed at the ethnic audience. These films typically had the production value of a BET Uncut music video with acting more wooden than the grain on a ‘67 Chevy steering wheel, but would get rented in droves by customers unaware of how horrible the movies really were.
A production company called Breakaway Films used to specialize in this sub-genre, with releases like Diggin’ for Dollars and I Accidentally Domed Your Son. 2004’s Senorita Justice is perhaps the crown jewel of their filmography. But finding a film like this on the shelves is a little like finding a French fry that’s landed in the dirt, while the rest of its fallen potato brethren lay ensconced in dog dung nearby. Sure, it’s technically safer to consume, but only if you’ve already committed yourself to eating garbage off of the fucking ground.
Yancy Mendia stars as “Hurricane” Anna Rios, a mild mannered lawyer in a ho-hum relationship with a rich white businessman she’s working with on an important property deal. Right as the sale is about to go through, Anna finds out her brother Juan has been murdered, so she has to go back home to Little Havana to find his killer. Oh, this is also where we find out that not only is Anna “from the streets” but she used to be a legendary undercover police officer and is also an accomplished martial artist. Great premise, right? Surely the makings of a tongue in cheek, exploitation revenge thriller high on sex, violence and killer music, yeah?
Except, instead, the film is like Tommy Wiseau being hired to do a really bad impression of Walter Hill. The film’s sole sex scene makes Skinemax look like Gaspar Noe. The action, both hand to hand combat and shoot outs, are sub-Nollywood in quality and execution. There are six-second videos on Vine with more harrowing set pieces. As for the music, honestly, some of it is kind of sweet, if you love ‘90s R&B with random code switching lyrics and comically aggressive gangster rap. Stylistically, this movie is an easy layup someone tried to stretch into a dunk contest before tripping and landing on a mascot in a furry suit.
It’s difficult to outline the plot, not because it’s particularly involved, but because simple beats are dragged out ridiculously. This is the kind of movie where characters stand around spouting exposition to one another, even when they both already know the information being spoon fed to the audience. It takes 30 minutes of the film’s 85 minute running time before Anna begins working the central mystery, but after five minutes of her “investigation,” it feels like six or seven years in David Fincher’s Zodiac have passed, despite the narrative taking place over a handful of days.
It should come as no surprise when the pleasant, straight and narrow businessmen Anna has been dealing with turn out to be in cahoots with the Yakuza, with her boyfriend eventually revealed to be the plot’s mastermind. Why the Yakuza? So their female henchman and Anna can have a final showdown in what looks like an abandoned luxury hotel, of course. The fight is laughably bad, but still leagues better than the rest of the film’s action sequences, which all seem to have been cut together in Windows Movie Maker.
Eva Longoria is in this movie, too. No, she doesn’t want you to know that and it’s hard to blame her. Comparing Senorita Justice to bad pornography would be generous, given that few scenes in the movie arise to the dramatic efficacy of a corporate educational video on sexual harassment. But if you scroll through Hulu Plus or Amazon Instant and settle on this title just because there’s a hot Latina with a gun on the cover, maybe you knew what you were in for.