I am velvety-smoothReview is BELOWI am veltely smooth, too
Film Review onlyPainkiller Jane (2005 TV pilot)
DVD Transfer: 
...back to Index
P to R
DVD Extras:  
Catalog #:


...or start from scratch





Genre: TV / Science-Fiction / Comic Book  
An ex-military Special Ops captain with self-healing powers goes rogue when she discovers her future as a lab rat is most unattractive.  



Directed by:

Sanford Bookstaver
Screenplay by: John Harrison, Don Keith Opper, Greg Gold (co-story)
Music by: Brian Tyler
Produced by: Harvey Frand

Emmanuelle Vaugier, Richard Roundtree, Eric Dane, Tate Donovan, Richard Harmon, Walker Howard, Nels Lennarson, and Callum Keith Rennie.

Film Length: 81 mins
Process/Ratio: 1.78:1
Anamorphic DVD: n/a
Languages:  English Dolby Stereo 2.0
Special Features :  


Comments :

The cinematic evolution of Jimmy Palmiotti and Joe Quesada's Painkiller Jane began with this Sci-Fi Channel TV pilot, albeit with some major changes meant to tone down the rage and raw sexuality from the original comic book anti-heroine.

Jane Vasko became Captain Jane Browning (Emmanuelle Vaugier), a formerly rebellious, troubled girl who found purpose in commanding a band of fellow jocks. Within the rigidly ordered world of the Special Ops, Jane no longer felt like an outsider, and she found a new father figure in Colonel Watts (Richard Roundtree), whom she trusted with her life.

The pivotal incident that affects her future isn't being injected by a weird drug and thrown from a building, but exposure to a lethal toxin while routing out a suspected drug lab in Chechnya, and three bullets fired by assassins clothed in snow-white biohazard suits.

Found to be the sole survivor from her troupe, Jane becomes a girl in a plastic bubble, examined for the mystical healing abilities that prevented three deep bullet holes from killing her. During her convalescence, Jane discovers she doesn't just heal fast, but also possesses skills that make her run faster, sense physical obstructions with greater acuity, see objects at greater distances, and read geometric and alpha-numerical patterns, enabling her to problem solve like a supercomputer.

Where the pilot succeeds is in retaining Jane's vengence and sense of isolation – she can't connect well with people, she's too cold and filled with contempt to explore meaningful, intimate relationships – but the addition of heightened sensory powers pretty much transforms Jane Vasko/Browning into Jamie Sommers, aka The Bionic Woman.

The parallels are blatantly present in a lengthy jogging montage that has Jane discovering she can do more than heal fast; it's an efficient and moody sequence, enhanced by alternating slo-mo footage, minor CGI effects, and Brian Tyler's elegant music, but it's probably the key point where fans of the comic book gave up on the pilot, knowing whatever new series would follow would have very little in common with Palmiotti and Quesada's original creation. (The special abilities were somewhat retained in the 2007 series that eventually followed, but Jane Vasco was more super-smart than pseudo-bionic.)

One does warm up to Emmanuelle Vaugier's petite and prettier physicality, but she lacks the tough edge which Kristanna Loken brought to the character in the TV series. To compensate, Vaugier played Jane as stoic and emotionally disconnected with her elder sister (another new addition that was somewhat carried over in the TV series as a past memory). To further her transformation from loyal soldier to rogue huntress, Vaugier slides into a leather jacket, and sports a spikey, metallic crimson haircut – the only time the TV character bore any physical resemblance to the original comic book version.

The pilot's first third is actually very good – you have to abandon any hope of seeing straight elements from the comic at this stage – but once she escapes with a ne'er do well thief/smuggler named Nick (Eric Dane, aka McSteamy from Grey's Anatomy) on his motorcycle, what follows are predictable scenes meant to set up Jane's ongoing quest to bring the series' proposed villain (Lucas Insley, the hands-on head of a bio-medical conglomerate with criminal activities) to justice.

There's also her emerging support network: Nick is designed to be her potential lover in addition to providing her with funds and special gear through is own shady activities; Squeak (Richard Harmon) is the mute ragamuffin who travels through the city's underground tunnels; and Blue (Walker Howard), a vaguely rendered doctor/comedy relief type who helps Jane recover from a bullet wound. In the pilot, Blue also witnesses Jane's self-healing skills which are more detailed than the TV series: here we see Jane's body actually expunge the bullet and seal up the hole within seconds.

Like Dr. Richard Kimble's quest in The Fugitive to find the one-armed man, Jane is unable to catch Insley, so we're pretty sure that regardless of whatever misadventures Jane would tackle in the proposed episodic series, every so often she'd bump into one of Insley's henchmen, or have a few face-to-face encounters. The pilot's finale has Insley in possession of a green vile containing the genetic goo that makes Jane the perfect military robot, and one can surmise the resultant series might have include a ‘Bad Jane' – a cold, robotic hybrid made from Jane's goo – who would ultimately duel Jane in a season cliffhanger.

To Mitchell (Callum Keith Rennie), Colonel Watts' superior, Jane is the ultimate fighting weapon that must be studied and replicated, and it's clear this cardboard, jingoistic cliché was designed as another potential threat the writers could apply towards Jane, whenever Mitchell discovers she's still alive and well.

The parallels to The Bionic Woman are ever-present, but a major distinction is that Jamie Sommers was a government-built cyborg called into duty for adventure-missions, whereas Jane Browning is a biological creation with an ongoing evolution who rejects the demands of a government that almost divinely claims full ownership of her mind and body.

In terms of residual ties to the comic book and 2007 TV series, Colonel Watts is a father figure, and by the pilot's end, he's virtually Maureen, Jane's DEA partner; as Maureen functioned as Jane Vasko's link to the police department, Watts is Jane Browning's link to governmental subterfuge, and a friendly hand in case Insley's reach traps Jane in a deadly corner. One can also see Watts becoming the government's unofficial mediator for future missions Jane might be called upon, should she make some peace with her pursuers.

It's all theory and conjecture, but the vagueness within the pilot and the facile conflicts germinating in certain scenes make it clear this first attempt to bring Painkiller Jane to TV was very different from the comic books. The pilot was apparently well received, because plans to develop a full season were never abandoned.

The main criticisms of the pilot – its slowness (which does work for the character) and lack of action set-pieces – were addressed by transforming Jane Browning into Jane Vasco, back as an ex-DEA agent. The decision to abandon any uniqueness and opt for a standard cop show template, however, is one of the decisions that ultimately doomed the 2007 series to a one-season effort; action and combat were never in short supply, but the downside was an inability to craft a distinct and unconventional series.

As of this writing, this pilot has yet to be released on DVD. Given the TV series is the character's official TV incarnation, this first attempt at re-imagining the Jane Vasko will probably disappear into oblivion, but for fans curious about how a singular character can undergo multiple transformations, it's a fascinating artifact.



© 2008 Mark R. Hasan

_IMDB Entry________Google Search_________Fan/Official Film site________Cast/Crew Link
_IMDB Detailed Entry_________Scripts available online ________Fan/Official Film Site__________Additional Related Sites
____Amazon.com __________Amazon.ca _________Bay Street Video_______Comparisons_
__Amazon.com info_____Amazon.com info_______Amazon.com info________Compare Different Region releases_
_Soundtrack CD__________CD Review__________LP Review__________Composer Filmog.
Soundtrack Album__________Soundtrack Review_____Yes, VINYL_________Composer Filmography/Discography at Soundtrack Collector.com

Site designed for 1024 x 768 resolution, using 16M colours, and optimized for MS Explorer 6.0. KQEK Logo and All Original KQEK Art, Interviews, Profiles, and Reviews Copyright © 2001-Present by Mark R. Hasan. All Rights Reserved. Additional Review Content by Contributors 2001-Present used by Permission of Authors. Additional Art Copyrighted by Respective Owners. Reproduction of any Original KQEK Content Requires Written Permission from Copyright Holder and/or Author. Links to non-KQEK sites have been included for your convenience; KQEK is not responsible for their content nor their possible use of any pop-ups, cookies, or information gathering.