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Electra



"Zeher" ... this love triangle turns out to be a thriller.

THE LATEST Hollywood movie to give comic books a bad name, "Elektra" stars Jennifer Garner as a super heroine who dons fetish-wear the colour of blood before laying waste to every man in sight.

``Your parents must have had a sense of humour,'' the broodingly handsome and plucky love interest says to Elektra about her mythopoetic name. She answers in the negative: no they did not and neither does she. Created in the 1980s by the comic-book auteur, Frank Miller, while he was working on Marvel's "Daredevil," Elektra initially popped up as the titular superhero's one-time romantic foil turned nemesis.

Decades later she showed up again, this time in the barely watchable potboiler of the same name starring Ben Affleck.

Affleck was the hero of that flick, but Garner was its saving grace. The actress stole every one of her scenes and for her troubles has now been rewarded the starring role in its equally dreary spinoff. Female superheroes are a strange breed. There is always something disturbing, even disrupting about a woman who walks (or flies) alone. That may explain why so many female superheroes travel in gendered packs or hook up with supermen.

Given its track record when it comes to women, it is no surprise that Hollywood has failed to create super heroines as richly conceived as those on television or in Hong Kong cinema, where for decades alpha gals have been soaring through the air and kicking up their high heels to battle villainy and, often times, their own personal demons.

The need for new female stars with smiles as inviting as that of Julia Roberts is urgent enough that you would have expected the studio releasing "Elektra" to have demanded as much creativity from the movie's director, Rob Bowman, and screenwriters — Zak Penn, Stuart Zicherman and Raven Metzner — as from its costume designer, Lisa Tomczeszyn, and Garner's personal trainer, Valerie Waters.

Miller's Elektra doesn't have the pedigree of the character conceived by Euripides and Sophocles, but she's the type of creation — moral conflict plus hot body — that could have executives laughing all the way to the bank.

There are a few laughs in "Elektra," principally because the script is a joke. The story, such as it is, involves the brooding love interest (Goran Visnjic) and his daughter (a miscast Kirsten Prout), who are the target of a shadowy group called the Hand.

A mostly Asian gang that treads dangerously close to stereotype of the Fu Manchu variety, the Hand is ruled over by the fine actor Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa.

Tagawa doesn't have much to do except look mysterious; his character leaves his dirty work to a group of murderous youngsters with names like Tattoo and Typhoid, who try to glower menacingly while wearing too much eyeliner and come accompanied with some tacky and very unpersuasive special effects.

No question, the film's best special effect is Garner, especially when she is in costume. It's worth noting that whenever Elektra slips on her satiny outfit, she also puts down her long hair, which you would think would impede her warrior skills. It never does. That must be some kind of super conditioner.

"Elektra" is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). The film shows Garner in various stages of very modest undress and has some mild violence.

The director of photography is Bill Roe, it has been edited by Kevin Stitt and music is by Christophe Beck. It is released by 20th Century Fox and Regency Enterprises.

MANOHLA DARGIS

NYT

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