Director Michael Smith’s The Minx is an ambitious independent film. It takes on a premise you would usually find in a major release and runs with it whole-heartedly, hoping to flesh it out with a cast of colorful characters and snappy dialogue. The unfortunate opinion I have to report, however, is that these ambitions are never fulfilled satisfactorily. A visibly shoestring budget coupled with bland acting and an undercooked script (co-written by Smith) ties the film to the ground, when it’s obvious the cast and crew wanted their project to soar.
As I already mentioned, the basic conceit of the film is decent, albeit one more suited for those with more funds and the ability to truly bring it to life. Mia Park plays Linnea Chiang, an unassuming gal who works at a tobacco shop and enjoys playing her guitar while singing at a local bar. Her secret identity is that of The Minx, a costumed cat burglar who robs corporations blind and gives to the homeless, but her secret won’t stay kept for long. Reporter Edgar Alvarez (Manny Toro) and crooked businessman Joseph Van Zwick (Circus-Szalewski) are hot on her trail, determined to discover the face behind the mask.
One major problem I had with this film was its inability to show The Minx at work to any great extent. The opening sequence sees the character cracking a safe and swiping a manila envelope filled with cash, but this hardly matches the description of her abilities given by other members of the cast. The Minx, we are told again and again, is a master thief, but I was never taken on much of an insider’s journey with this woman as she put her skills to the test. Some may blame the budget for this utter lack of espionage, but I say if you can’t show us the bread and butter, don’t tell us about it.
Then there are the holes in the script, of which there are many. One example sees Linnea waltzing into a corporate building wearing street clothes. Moments later we see her running out the front door in full Minx attire, a moment made all the more ridiculous by the fact that she does this in the middle of the day. Huh? How did that work? Why was she able to pull off the robbery so easily? Again, Smith doesn’t bother to explain, leaving us to just assume she’s the best thief on the planet. Also, Linnea has this odd need to just plop her stolen cash at the feet of homeless people, which obviously leads the cops to track down the marked bills once they’re spent. Why take the risk? We later learn Linnea acts as The Minx to unlock an inner part of her, but this still does nothing to clarify why she simply throws the money around so carelessly.
I suppose none of this would really matter if the acting was above average, but it’s not, to be frank. As Linnea, Park barely registers as an on-camera presence, except for when she’s screaming her head off for no logical reason other than histrionics. We should want to have fun with Linnea and join her on a heist or two, not take a nap in her presence. Oddly enough, Smith grinds the film to a halt twice so he can have Park sing, which resulted in nothing than my patience being tried. Toro is okay as the reporter, but when paired with Park it’s a romantic couple few would enjoy watching. At least Circus-Szalewski chews up some scenery as the villain, bearing a strong resemblance to a similarly white-collar baddie from Time Chasers.
Direction and writing-wise, this film is all over the map. Too often Smith uses shutter-style editing to make spasmodic cuts during a scene, which made my head hurt and teeth grind. The camera in most scenes remains completely stationary or zooms in way too close to the actors, and some shots—such as one of our lovey-dovey leads walking away from an apartment—go on way too long. The script as a whole is tonally uneven, and cannot decide whether it wants to be a comedy or a straight heist thriller. By riding the fence the film is damaged beyond repair, and cornball gimmicks like character voice-overs and an extended reference to Orson Welles’ The Third Man do nothing to increase the movie’s credibility.
I wish I could say something a little more positive about The Minx, since it’s clear everyone involved was having fun and wanted to make a great film. I will mention that the last scene, filmed in Hong Kong, made me yearn for a complete change in location for the story I’d just watched. A heist picture set in Hong Kong just might have been the key to making this otherwise generic script play well, but that’s just a guess. As it is, this is one independent film that needed a lot of work before being put out to the public, and I’m sorry to be the messenger of that news.