If Looks Could Kill (1991)

Director: William Dear
Starring: Richard Grieco, Gabrielle Anwar, Linda Hunt, Roger Rees, Robin Bartlett, Roger Daltrey
Music: David Foster

The film opens with a graduation ceremony at Edsel High School. Arriving late and wearing headphones is Michael Corben (Richard Grieco). Corben is a wise-ass, under achieving American teenager, who on his forth attempt at graduating, has still flunked because he did not attend his French classes. To make up the credit, he has to go the France over the Summer break with his strict French teacher, Mrs. Grober (Robin Bartlett), and the French Club.

Meanwhile, somewhere in Europe, Britain’s finest secret agent, Blade (Roger Daltrey), armed with gadgets and bombs, has single handedly blown up the security force surrounding Augustus Steranko’s mansion. Steranko (Roger Rees) is a high flying financier who has plans to takes over the whole European economy. But not if Blade can help it. He crashes through a window to surprise the evil doers inside. But he is no match for the diminutive Ilse Grunt (Linda Hunt). Her necklace turns into a deadly metallic bullwhip.

With Blade dead, the intelligence community needs a new operative to continue his work. Enter Michael Corben. Not Michael Corben teenager, but older sophisticated Michael Corben secret agent. Agent Corben happens to be booked on the same flight to Paris as young wise-ass Corben. But Agent Corben doesn’t make the flight. He runs into Ilse Grunt in a waiting lounge and his life is cut short.

At the other end, young Michael is mistaken for the secret agent and that’s where the fun begins. Along the way Corben teams up with Mariska (Gabrielle Anwar), and together they have to stop Steranko.

Rees plays the villainous Steranko with a perfect mixture of menace and camp, befitting a film aimed at a teen market. As all evil masterminds do, Steranko has multiple odious minions to do his dirty work. I have already mentioned Linda Hunt as Grunt. She seems to be having a great time is such a far fetched and evil role. The next henchman of note is Zigesfeld, played by Tom Rack. His unique feature is the old tried and tested metallic hands. As you should know by now, dear reader, that if you use your metallic hands for evil, they will be your downfall. Steranko’s third evil minion is a henchwoman named Areola Canasta (but, of course) played by Carole Davis. She seduces Michael and plans to kill him during a session of PG rated naughtiness. Her preferred weapon is a live scorpion.

As you can see, in this review, I have concentrated more on describing the characters involved rather than the plot, quite simply because from the character reviews you get a clear view of what the movie is about. Sure, there is a plot, but it’s not important. What is important are the colourful and deliberately clichéd characters. Normally I’d be very scathing of the clichés, but these are done with such obvious love and affection for the genre, it is hard to be critical. And to be honest, many of the set pieces, (stalwarts of the genre – car chase with gadget laden car, confrontation between hero and villain at a casino, and villains lair exploding in a ball of flame at the climax) are pulled off with more competency than many of the better known films of it’s type. What more could you ask?

If Looks Could Kill is a very enjoyable teen variation on the spy movie and is every bit as entertaining as it’s modern counterparts, Spy Kids and Agent Cody Banks.

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