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Model by Day
(1994 TV Movie)

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Model by Day (1994):  Based on the independent comic book by Kevin J. Taylor.  I've actually e-mailed with the guy a few times.  He's nice, and I wish him all the best!  A wonderful artist!

    The premise is simple.  Lex is a supermodel in New York City.  Her roommate and best friend Jae Davis, who happens to be a photographer, is brutally beaten and hospitalized by car thieves.  The cops do next to nothing to stop these criminals.  Lex, understandably upset, puts on a sexy purple costume and seeks the abusive car thieves.  While evading the police, the back of her costume shows an X.  The media gives her the name of "Lady X" and it sticks.

    This is a fun film despite its flaws, but it is well-filmed and well-acted.  I like the action scenes and all the sexy-looking women.  A lot of neat stuff to see, which is what this movie really relies on.  It's more of a visual thing, and not dependent on it's story.  This film is entertaining, but it doesn't always make sense.  At times, there seem to be plot holes big enough to drive a truck through.  Famke Janssen starred as Lady X, long before she became a really famous movie actress in her own right.  She looks great, perhaps the best she's ever looked on film, and visually looks like she can beat up guys thanks to her height and build.

    Lex just put on the costume to avenge her friend, and she takes care of the thieves in short order.  That was really her only motivation for becoming Lady X.  Why did she continue to fight crime as a vigilante?  It is never explained.

    The major thing wrong with this film is that they were trying to tell an incredible story in a 90-minute movie.  They would've been better off telling a smaller story, because they were trying to cram too much in and it ended up having plot holes.    What they were doing here was more suitable for a TV mini-series or weekly series.  For instance:

1.  The car thieves were important for Lex becoming Lady X, but they weren't given names or anything.  They were just walk-on characters.  And she caught them easily without doing any research or even really knowing anything about them.  How did she know that these were the same men who beat up Jae, anyway?  They should've just made the movie about Lady X trying to catch these thieves instead of all the big elaborate stuff that they squeezed in here.  Actually, all they showed us in this movie could've been carried out through several episodes of a television series with more plot and character definition.

2.  I have a pretty good imagination and can let a lot of things slide, but why did Lex pick that crazy purple costume to be Lady X?  First of all, purple is an easy color to spot, but most importantly why would it have to be so overtly sexy-looking?  Not complaining, mind you, but it just doesn't make sense why she would want to dress so scant to fight crime.  It's also unclear if she made the costume or found the costume.  The helmet she found at her modeling job.  One of the most important things about any superhero is his/her costume, and the origin of the costume was completely passed by.

3.  Supermodel Lex keeps complaining that everybody sees her as a sex icon and a woman above all others.  Why didn't the filmmakers try to make her more of a real person, then, when she wasn't modeling?  She always looked sexy and she seemed to do just about anything that they wanted her to do including speaking German and Chinese.  And I'm thinking if she wants to avoid the whole "babe" label, why is she dressing up so sexy as Lady X?

    Back to the story!  Later on in the show, a sleazebag club owner named Tommy Nolan gets killed.  We find out it was the work of a Lady X copycat.  Nobody saw the crime actually happen, but everybody suspects it was Lady X.  Why?  Because he was kissed with a brand of lipstick called Prison?  Huh?

     And Lieutenant Eddie Walker automatically suspects Lex of being Lady X and for having killed Tommy.  First of all, why did they think Lady X was the murderer?  Most importantly, how did Walker come to the conclusion that Lex was Lady X without any evidence?  And he only met her once before.  Lex advertised Prison lipstick, so I guess that made her a suspect AND Lady X?  Huh?  It would have been reasonable to assume that Lex killed Tommy because she roughed him up earlier that night, but why would she have to be Lady X or why would Lady X even have anything to do with it?

    Another thing, after Lex leaves the police station, Lt. Walker is following her in his car...for no reason.  He makes himself stand out like a sore thumb and is easily spotted by the vixenish supermodel.  Then when he discovers his cover is blown, he still chases her!  Why?  If she was going to do something suspicious, the realization that the cops are watching her would change that.  But this whole pursuit opens the movie up for a cool car chase scene with Lex's new Corvette and the cop's 1970s car (in surprisingly good shape and bright green).  It's cool to see, but there's no reason for it.

    It seems that the whole romance between Lex and Walker is forced and cliche.  At one moment, Lex despises him and thinks he's incompetent.  The next time she sees him, she gets designs on the hard-boiled cop.  Then they're the best of buddies!

    Well, Lex finds out from Walker that Tommy (the dead club owner) was really operating the club as a front for the Russian Mafia.  Tommy's bodyguard and hitman Johnny Lee, a short Chinese man with a ponytail and likeness for wearing nice suits and flashing his guns, was told by Tommy's superiors to kill Lady X (because after all, she HAD to be the one who did it).  Anyway, the copycat Lady X strikes again and kills a Russian gangster named Yuri.  This time she leaves behind a metal X as a calling card.  After the cops arrive, Johnny Lee waits on a rooftop with sniper rifle, ready to blast Lady X when she comes back.  Why the heck would Lady X come back after she already killed Yuri?  But, that was the hitman's way of thinking.  Anyway, the real Lady X sneaks around and investigates the crime scene.  When she leaves and takes off her mask, that's when the spying hitman discovers Lex is really Lady X.  So he strongly suspects Lex of killing Tommy and Yuri, but doesn't shoot her.  Why?  I dunno.  But it seems he much rather wanted to wait in Lex's car and freak her out in the parking garage.

    Lex explains that there is a copycat Lady X and why she couldn't have killed Tommy.  Johnny Lee kind of halfway believes her, and now they're like buddies.  They go to Chinatown and hide out.  Evidently the Russian gangsters are displeased with the Lee's performance and Lady X, and plan to kill them both.  They're found in Chinatown and a big fighting and shooting bonanza takes place, allowing us to see the hitman shoot his guns and Lady X to rough up the other guys.

    The copycat Lady X places a phone call to another Russian gangster she wants to kill.  Somehow, the hitman knows about this and him and Lady X wait on an adjacent rooftop for the vicious killer female.  I guess she only sneaks around on rooftops.  She can't go up the elevator or anything else?  Also, why is Johnny Lee trying to protect the gangster?  The Russian Mafia just tried to kill him!  Anyway, the real Lady X slides down on a cable (a fun scene, by the way) over to the other rooftop and fights with the copycat Lady X for awhile.  Lady X discovers that her friend Shannon is the fake Lady X.  Everything is cool until the hitman comes up the ladder to the rooftop.  He's going to kill Shannon until she flees by jumping onto the cable.  Unfortunately for Shannon, the cable loosens and she falls to her death on the street below.

    Now Lady X and the hitman are no longer buddies, and despite his invitation to flee with him, she refuses and sticks around.  In no time at all, Lt. Walker meets Lady X on the rooftop and lets her go.  He claims he didn't see anyone.  Later, in all the newspapers, Lady X is believed to be dead.  Despite the fact that Shannon's costume was much different than the real Lady X costume and that existing photographs prove it.  Now it seems that Lex has given up the Lady X identity.

    Anyway, Lt. Walker comes to visit Lex and tell her about Shannon and why she did what she did.  This is a good thing that the filmmakers did, otherwise we wouldn't know why Shannon was the killer, so that helps clear things up for us.  Apparently, Shannon's kid sister was taken in by the Russian Mafia, warped, and ultimately killed herself.  Shannon went on a revenge spree.  There are two things I'd like to know:

1.  Shannon and Lex were supposed to be good friends.  Why wouldn't Lex know about this?  Sure, Shannon could have kept it secret.  But if this happened recently, Lex for sure would have known about it.  And...

2.  If the death of Shannon's sister happened long ago, why did she only wait until now, when Lady X came on the scene, to exact her vengeance on the Russian Mafia?  Apparently she always had the ability and I don't think she needed Lady X as an excuse.

    But after all is explained, we're left wondering if there is still going to be a relationship between Walker and Lex or not.  But also, we see that Lex's roommate Jay Davis discovers Lady X's true identity and wears the costume for fun.  Everything is good.  Happy ending.

The Cast:

Famke Janssen as Lex/Lady X:  I liked her in this movie.  She acted well and looked good.  Definitely a convincing supermodel AND crimefighter.  Lex is basically alone in the world, and her friends Jae, Chang, and Shannon are all the family she has.  Except we barely see Shannon in the movie.

Traci Lind as Jae Davis:  She was Lex's photographer friend and roommate.  Traci's a good, lively actress.  Her character Jae is pretty and has a cute personality.  It bugs me, though, when she gets beat up and hospitalized.  She's just too cute of a character to be put in such a situation.  But she always seems to be optimistic, even when things look their worst.  Oh, and she even looks cute with an eyepatch, but it's a shame that she wears one for the whole rest of the movie.

Clark Johnson as Master Chang:  Lex's tae kwon doe teacher.  I like the idea of a martial arts instructor in a wheelchair.  But am I missing something?  This character certainly doesn't look Chinese.  And he doesn't teach Lex anything...just nags at her all the time for wanting to be a vigilante.  Basically, he's just a character thrown in to show us that Lex has a teacher and a friend.  He's not really central to the story.  Clark Johnson gave a good performance, though, for as little as Chang has to do with the movie.

Shannon Tweed as Shannon:  This movie was promoted as Shannon Tweed having a substantial part, but don't be fooled!  I like Shannon Tweed a lot in her shows, but she's really just a bit player here.  Tweed fans buying this movie or watching it on TV thinking they're going to see a lot of her are getting ripped off!  She's supposed to be Lex's friend, but we hardly ever see her in this movie.  Shannon is definitely here for cameo purposes because she was a big star.  Her character isn't even given a last name!  And the fact that they just named her Shannon...kind of lazy on the writers' part.  They just had to remind us that this was Shannon Tweed.  Shannon is a women's self-defense instructor and apparently disgruntled the few times we see her.  It's EXTREMELY obvious that she is the fake Lady X, because there are few other women in this show and no one else as athletic as Lex.  I'm surprised Tweed was credited in this film.  Although she gives a good performance, we see very little of her...less than most movie actors whose performances are uncredited!  But still, she was a big name, so for marketing reasons it was just smart on their part to mention that she was in this movie.

Sean Young as Mercedes:  Mercedes is the sleazy modeling agent.  Sean Young is always great at playing those total-b**** roles, and is definitely one of this movie's highlights.  Funny!  Meant to be just a passing-through type of character for the story, but she is on-screen more than most of the other players.  She definitely had more screen-time and importance than Shannon Tweed's character, but if you notice in the opening credits, Shannon Tweed is listed as one of the movie's main stars (although she's hardly in it) while Sean is put at the very end in a "And Sean Young" manner.  It doesn't mean a whole lot, but it's just interesting that they did that.  She did deserve higher billing, though, but if you're like me you don't really pay much attention to movie credits.

Stephen Shellen as Lt. Eddie Walker:  I like the actor and the performance, but his character in this film just seems token...just to prove to us that Lex/Lady X has a love interest.  It's not his fault, but I think it would've been better if he was just a straight-out nemesis for our heroine.  The whole romance thing they attempted just didn't seem to fit.

Von Flores as Johnny Lee:  Tommy Nolan's bodyguard/hitman.  This is perhaps the best character of the whole movie!  He's got a cool attitude and look, and definitely the most interesting background story...even if we do have to assume a lot with him.  He's a bad guy, but in kind of a good way as far as bad guys go.  Lee is not a real vicious killer, although he is a killer and does bad things.  He could've easily been made a good guy, but for the plot of the story it worked better if he was a shady type of character.  Oh, and for your information, the actor is really Filipino, not Chinese.

Pictures:

Model by Day #1 (Sirius, 1994)
"Model by Day" comic book
Issue #1, 1994
Publisher:  Sirius
[Click on image to enlarge]

Famke Janssen Famke Janssen
Famke Janssen Famke Janssen
Famke Janssen Famke Janssen
Famke Janssen Famke Janssen
Famke Janssen

About the Home Video:

This movie was not a big hit on TV or on home video, which is sad because it's NOT BAD.  Because of the fact that it wasn't extremely popular within itself, the people who designed the home video box had a lot of creative liberties.  The cover still looks great, but they're completely ignoring the movie.  Now, I'm wondering why they just didn't show a picture of Famke Janssen in the sexy purple Lady X costume?

What they did is show a picture of sexy blonde Shannon Tweed (who barely had a part in this movie) in the forefront with a picture of an anonymous costumed model high-kicking in the background.  She didn't even dress in the movie like she did on the cover!  Ms. Tweed was the one they really thought would sell it for them if they mentioned her.  She's a great actress and I like her in movies, but don't think that you're going to see very much of her in this movie.  It's a trick!  And not only was the woman in the back NOT in this movie, the costume is NOT even close to looking like the Lady X costume.

Some of the things about the home video version of this movie that you didn't see on FOX-TV when it aired back in 1994 is that there are a few scenes of female nudity and one part where the Tommy Nolan character says the F word.  Other than that, I think everything is the same.