Movie Review: D.E.B.S

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Working for a super-secret spy organisation, one spy finds her world turned upside down when she meets an infamous diamond thief.

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Angela Robinson, 2004

Amy (Sarah Foster) was recruited out of high school straight into secret paramilitary organisation D.E.B.S (Discipline, Energy, Beauty, and Strength). She’s about to graduate, along with her friends: sassy Max (Meagan Good), needy Janet (Jill Ritchie), and the very French Dominique (Devon Aoki). The four of them are sent on a reconnaissance mission to spy on notorious thief Lucy Diamond (Jordana Brewster) when she meets with a Russian assassin. Unfortunately, they’re actually spying on a blind date set up by Lucy’s best friend and cohort Scud (Jimmi Simpson). Even more unfortunately, Lucy sees them and the mission is blown. Before she escapes, Lucy bumps into Amy, and the two are immediately attracted to one another. Accustomed to getting what she wants, Lucy sets out on a mission of her own: to date Amy, in spite of the fact that they’re on opposite sides of the law and Amy’s going through a sexuality crisis. But the D.E.B.S, especially Max, are not happy about this new development in Amy’s life.

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This is a really strange movie with something of a cult following, but it deserves a lot more attention for its casual subversion of tropes. The concept of a super-secret spy/defence organisation who wear fetishistic schoolgirl uniforms and end the year with a prom plays to the male gaze, but the lesbian love story is played completely (for lack of a better term) straight. It’s a decidedly light and fluffy affair, with very little real conflict. Amy bears the brunt of most of the conflict, with her sexuality crisis and torn loyalties providing the film’s dramatic core. It may not have won any Oscars, but it’s fun and moves along at a clip. It’s a film with a unified vision, and it has a few fun chase scenes amongst some parody elements. You can feel the stretch from a short film into a full-length feature – the relationships between the four featured DEBS aren’t entirely organic, and a subplot with Amy’s ex-boyfriend is bland as biscuits. The film’s rarely laugh-out-loud funny, with a hammy script, but clever work from some of the cast elevates the material.

By far the best member of this cast is Jordana Brewster, who is having the time of her life as the international supervillain Lucy Diamond. Also having fun is Jimmi Simpson as her partner in crime. Every scene is brightened by their presence, and when they’re together the film’s at its best. They are equally awesome breaking the law and, in one particularly cute montage, making up for all their crimes in an effort to win Amy back. Sarah Foster’s a little too white bread for the lead role. She struggles to portray Amy’s conflict, especially in the more dramatic moments, but she has nice chemistry with Lucy. Devon Aoki and Jill Ritchie are both okay in their one-note performances, and there’s some fun support from Holland Taylor and Michael Clarke Duncan as the…principals? Commanding officers? Really struggling is Meagan Good, whose sassy, morally torn best friend character just comes off as mean and bitchy most of the time. Definitely a fun little overlooked film with some clever ideas.

D.E.B.S on IMDb

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