Checkmate Review

A movie so bad that Danny Glover may never work again in Hollywood

Checkmate is a gloriously epic turkey of poor filmmaking. The direct-to-video “action” thriller is nominally about a bank heist pulled off by the most obnoxious criminals in movie history. Former stars Danny Glover and Sean Astin were somehow fooled into signing up for Checkmate, a cheesy b-movie made on a shoestring budget with an incomprehensible plot. I can only hope their paychecks were worth this embarrassment.

Checkmate goes for an off-kilter vibe such as cult classic The Boondock Saints and badly fails. That ethos ends up completely undercut by its slapdash amateur approach. Checkmate fails in so many spectacular ways that all copies of the movie should be immediately burned. Avert your eyes, children. The inane narrative appears to have been stitched together like Frankenstein’s monster after filming was complete.

The recognizable actors they get to appear in Checkmate are likely doing everything in their power to already forget it. Danny Glover, Sean Astin, Vinnie Jones, Katrina Law, Willa Ford and Mischa Barton tarnish whatever credibility they have left by appearing in Checkmate. Most of the cast are on the downside of their acting careers but Checkmate may permanently send them to irrelevance. Vinnie Jones will appear in any movie as a hackneyed villain for a paycheck, but the others have semi-respectable acting careers. Shame on their agents for involving them in this dreck.

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Danny Glover and Vinnie Jones play a game of chess for most of Checkmate. The actual board game – this is not an elaborate metaphor about crime lords squaring off. The stakes for the chess game is the cosmic concept of eternity. I have little idea what it means or how it connects to the rest of the narrative. Did I mention that Danny Glover’s mysterious character has a sword-wielding bodyguard called Katana? The role isn’t much of a stretch for Katrina Law, having played much the same character on the CW’s Arrow.

Sean Astin plays a bible-quoting priest that is an assassin in his spare time. None of this is laid out as standard character development. Weird characters pop up without much motivation and then usually end up dying in lazy fashion. You get the impression that random sections of Checkmate are pastiches from different scripts. I’m guessing they made up the story as they went along filming it, changing things every time they signed on a new actor.

 

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Johnny Messner delivers Joey’s lines like the actor is on something.

Checkmate’s paint-by-numbers plot is theoretically about a bank heist staged by one of the loudest, dumbest criminals in movie history. Joey (Johnny Messner) is incredibly annoying, an eminently detestable character. His over-the-top foul language is possibly the most ridiculous thing in a movie of ridiculous things. Many great film characters have cursed up and down, but this dialogue is simply unbelievable. No one actually speaks like Joey in reality. If I didn’t know better, Johnny Messner delivers Joey’s lines like the actor is on something. It’s either the zaniest method acting performance of the century or he’s drinking one too many Red Bulls before a shoot.

The movie opens with hostages being taken at the bank. It then flashes back to see how each hostage ended up at the bank that day. A number of goofy, nearly random connections are then shown in numbing flashback. The direction by Timothy Woodward Jr. is amateurish, though that is outweighed by the terribly inane dialogue. The movie’s secondary cast members appear to have been picked for anything but their acting ability. Checkmate will almost certainly be their only film credit.

Nothing else really needs to be said about Checkmate. Even if one loves the cast, this is not a movie worth seeing unless it garners Plan 9 From Outer Space notoriety as a terrible film. It is cheaply made schlock that doesn’t entertain unless you can laugh at its unintentional laughs and ho-hum action.

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Checkmate runs 92 minutes and has not been rated by the MPAA. The coarse language and graphic violence would likely earn it an R rating. It is distributed by Alchemy on home video.