The Third Society (2002)
(Release Date: October 18, 2002 [Urban Mediamakers Film Festival - Atlanta, Ga.])
(Release Date: October 7, 2003 [Germany])
(Release Date: November 7, 2003 [US - DVD])

Slim Budget and Slim Plot keep some good ideas from making it to the screen!
But it's still better than The Big Hit, Armageddon, and There's Something About Mary!

J.C. Mašek III
The World's Greatest Critic!

I'm really excited that The Third Society got made... there were so many unanswered questions from The First Society and The Second Society that I haven't slept in Months! Similarly JA Steel Director/Writer/Actress/Producer of The Third Society made this baby her labor of love, and the strongest outing from her Production Company Warrior Entertainment! I have to say though, when the Press Packet gleefully proclaims that the director of the film being promoted "Fail[ed] Practical Filmmaking" and refused "to retake the directing/ editing class over", one must wonder if this is an excuse or a sign that the filmmaker herself takes a little bit of everything in a tongue in cheek manner.

My Recommendations for J.A. Steel:

Nobody has to Listen to me... but I've seen a few million movies and critiqued a few, and I feel I know what works.
As Sam Donaldson used to say, opinions...
take them for what you think they're worth!

  1. Community Theatre
    Don't Laugh! You've made a Feature Film here, and in both College Theatre and in Community Theatre there are actors that are actually good that are just dying to be in one. Get in good with a Director of a Drama Program or a Repertory theatre and audition from there. These people are used to acting (well) on the fly and working for Free. I know, I know, SAG... but believe me, to be in a Feature Film, these folks will Pony up but quick!

  2. Digital Technology
    Go hi-tech and back to Basics at the same time. Don't bother with Massive Crane Shots and Eastman Kodak Dollar Allocations. Invest in a Digital Camera and edit right there on the PC. It's cheaper than film and easier. And if you're wondering if it will look good or not, take a look at 28 Days Later... or Otogiriso (not to mention the SFX work on Babylon 5). This way you can focus on the Script and the Art and the budget will have more room for frills. This also might get you more investors for the next film once they see what a great picture Warrior Entertainment can come out with.

  3. Don't try to wear so many hats!
    You're creative and you work hard, but take a page from Hitchcock and stick to the Cameos. With the frame you cut, imagine a Jones-like character as a completely silent Martial Artist... maybe even the Villain who appears, kicks some ass, and is gone in a flash. Some of the most talked about characters in action are the ones used sparsely!

  4. Use those strengths
    Miniatures have been scarcely better used in bigger films. You inter-cut them well and you manage to create an atmospheric whole using these. Stick to dark settings and you can use more Miniatures!

  5. Be open to Remakes
    You have not only your vision, but your original script. Think of some of the cost cutting recommendations I've thrown out there, and give us another The Third Society when ready. I couldn't help but feel there was more to the story that I just didn't see, and wanted to. There are bad movies that I was gladder than glad had ended (see I, Zombie), but with The Third Society I felt there was more to see that just didn't make it to the screen.

  6. Not every project has to be a dream project!
    With your experience in music and with Sho Productions it would be easy to put together some low-budget, yet money making plays, TV shows or Movies that would fund some of the dream projects you have. Produce some pictures with directors like yourself who need the leg-up, and are willing to work for their credits. The income from these might get the picture made that you want, and could result in more awards!

Again, these are my thoughts, and you own a Production Company... I don't. I respect the work you do and I hope that my words are well-taken.

-Boundary Oversteppin' Kneumsi

I believe it's the latter, because, while The Third Society did indeed turn out to be a bad movie, it's a bad B-Movie with more than just an attempt at quality, but some serious stabs at comedy. Because of this I viewed The Third Society with a curious and rather confused eye. Was Steel creating spoof here and just coming across as too serious at times, or did Budget restraints prove to be the ultimate criminal in the devolution of this movie into Capitol B territory?

Whomever the culprit, the plot doesn't seem to spring fully formed from page to screen. A young woman is murdered in front of her two children, who are on the spot adopted into the Witness Protection Program (of some Asian country, apparently not named). Years later Erica Jones (the lovely Shannon Clay) and big sister Cassandra Alexandra Jones are grown and resentful. As a part of the tough as nails and hard as Cynthia Roth-Rock character, Cassandra Alexandra eschews first and middle names like she does Paperwork and is usually identified simply as "Jones!" And Jones, of course, is your typical "Bad-Girl" action hero from her tough attitude to her results-over-book police career even down to her Catch-Phrase of "ANY QUESTIONS?"! Jones herself has specialized in Martial Arts and has joined the LAPD while kid-sis Erica has become an investment banker.

It could be that the better plan was had by Erica because Jones can't seem to stop needling the very guy who killed their mommy and would just as soon see them both in a Cuisinart.

But what form does the Piss-off take? How about a bust of a Billion Dollar Heroin shipment? That's billion with a "B"! Who is she busting here, Pepsi? Nope, it's the originally named Asian Mobster Dragon (I kid you not) as portrayed by Khin-Kyaw Maung. What follows involves the kidnapping of Erica (clearly the only banker who can transfer the Billion [with a B] back to the Dragon) and the Kill Bill-like revenge rampage of Jones. Now teamed with a peeping-Tom FBI agent (Russell Vann Brown) who can't stop walking in on Jonsey when in the shower, we're treated to an expose of the under and over-worlds of Los Angeles all along the way to some familiar locales.

So... what did they get right in this movie? There are a lot of Budget-assassinated good ideas that were just begging to make it to the screen here. It's hard to say that there was much success in faithful translation of what must have been an interesting screenplay. However, The Third Society is not un-original! True, it's a Martial Arts and Asian Influenced Revenge Tragedy that's at least 15 years out of date... but so is Kill Bill, so that doesn't count as a complaint. While Steel could have cut a lot more corners financially to come up with a better film, one of the things that actually works here is her use of Miniatures. I was confused as to why an entire chase sequence featured voices but no actors, but I had no idea until I watched the behind-the-scenes documentary that the Helicopter and some of the other vehicles weren't even real. Lastly, for all the unintentional laughs that pop up here (and, Nelly, a few there are) the actually intended comedy shows what kind of sense of Humor Steel really has. It's almost surprising to catch some of her jokes and find yourself liking them. Dueling Internal monologues springs to mind!

Unfortunately, the end product isn't quie the sum of the good parts because there are a lot of misfires. Certain plot points aren't brought to life particularly well, and there's an overall sense of there not being enough takes to make a few scenes better than the way they came out. The acting here suffers from this. It's hard to say that the people in this movie are particularly good or bad actors, but they don't shine really brightly here. There's also a choppy method of inter-cut editing that makes the first half-hour sort of a repetitive mess.

The Score, credited to James Henriques on the DVD and to the Emily O'Neary band on the CD, mirrors the Editing in its repetition. The music is pretty good (in a late 1980's cheese manner) for the most part, but adds an air of melodrama to The Third Society as each emotional moment is accompanied by the self-same piano arpeggios (from the film's Ballad Theme Angel Tonight).

More on JA Steel...

Check out Warrior Entertainment and keep up with new Projects:

The Official JA Steel Home Page

Warrior Entertainment Online

Buy The Third Society on DVD

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Both to her credit and to her downfall Steel can be summed up in one word: Ambition. To begin such a project with extreme racing, martial arts and more guns than a midnight basketball game is really to begin a major Hollywood feature. To attempt such a project with limited funds shows all the toughness of Jones herself. Starting smaller might have saved Steel some cash and gained her some clout. However, let's take a look at the broader picture. How many films have you made? Ah-hah! How many have won awards? Ah-hah! And it's one thing to make a movie this bad (and it is bad) on the budget that JA Steel had, and it's another to make a movie like Armageddon with a huge budget and old David Addison in the lead and it still suck this bad! Hell, take a look at any season of Project Greenlight and see what a Million Dollars gets you.

It just goes to show that while Steel might never be the world's greatest director (but I'm the World's Greatest Critic in name only) it's quite possible that Steel's best movie is ahead of her. As a serious film The Third Society is heavily rooted in the 1980's exploitative genre that gave us Revenge of the Ninja and Gymkata. The music is similarly trapped in the Me Decade. With some spit and polish and some corner cutting in the right way, this could have been better, and I believe it will be better on the next shot.

All told, The Third Society (a title I haven't reconciled with the film yet) gets a Dog! The intentions, the potential and the ideas are all there, but as it stands it's Hard-Core Action on a Hard Core Porn budget! In the "Easter Egg" Category, the (intentionally) not-too-well kept secret is that the Un-credited Jones was played by none other than JA Steel herself! That's right! And the producer, Jacquelyn A. Ruffner? JA Steel's real name. Ruffner wears a lot of hats, and the devotion to her vision is admirable, but perhaps spreading herself a bit less thin would be the key to a better next film! Now, if you'll excuse me, I myself have to enter in to the Critical Witness Protection Program. Extreme cycling Jones is a Rock-Hard Hardbody with Kickboxing Moves to match, and when she catches wind of this review, I'm meat. Granny Mašek's Best Boy should learn to watch his tongue! ANY QUESTIONS?

Who wants a whole Society of Reviews?
Well then Click this Link for more Paper Work... ANY QUESTIONS?

The Third Society (2002) Reviewed by J.C. Mašek III who is Solely responsible for his own views, and for his entry into the Witness Protection Program for fear of a Beating from Jones. That woman is Buff and Mean!
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My ass is SO getting kicked for this review! Hard-Core Action on a Hard Core Porn budget!!!
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