John Woo Directed A Bizarre Made For TV Movie In Between Blockbusters

John Woo is perhaps one of the greatest Hong Kong directors and, depending on your tastes, the best one to ever bless the silver screen. However, whether you are an action movie aficionado or not, his influence on cinema cannot be overstated, as his films such as "A Better Tomorrow" and "The Killer" are classics that continue to influence filmmakers today.

Like many successful international directors, Woo crossed over to the Western markets in the early 1990s, releasing the Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle "Hard Target" in 1993. At the time, Universal Pictures was so hesitant to let him direct that executives had Sam Raimi on standby if the culture barrier was too much for Woo to handle (via The Hollywood Reporter). However, according to Box Office Mojo, their inhibitions went away after "Hard Target" grossed more than $30 million domestically. Woo continued to make movies in the United States, including 1997's "Face/Off" and 2000's "Mission: Impossible 2," after this success.

However, Woo wasn't idly standing by during that three-year gap between movies. Instead, he made "Blackjack," a bizarre made-for-television movie about a bodyguard protecting a supermodel from a maniacal assassin.

Oh, and the main character is afraid of the color white. No, I'm not kidding.

Pick a card, it's just a card

Airing on the USA Network in 1998 (via IMDB), "Blackjack" stars Dolph Lundgren as Jack Devlin, a hardened former U.S. Marshal who has become a bodyguard for influential people. He is an all-around badass, which is why he gets assigned to protect the latest popular supermodel, Cinder James (Kam Heskin). However, he is hiding a secret in plain sight; a flashbang grenade and his father's death have caused him to develop leukophobia, a fear defined by the Cleveland Clinic as "an intense fear of the color white." To offset the dazing effects exposure gives him, he wears sunglasses at nearly all times.

Unfortunately for Devlin, a killer is on the loose in the form of Rory Gaines (Phillip MacKenzie). He is obsessed with Cinder and wants to kill her and everyone that tries to protect her, including our hero. Even worse is that, to conceal his identity, he wears a white mask with black detailing. If we're abiding by the principle of Chekhov's gun (or, in this case, Chekov's phobia), then Devlin's glasses will have to come off at some point, making him face his greatest fear.

Game over

According to City on Fire, the movie was supposed to be a backdoor pilot for an eventual television show. However, those plans were eventually scrapped. A review of the movie by TV Guide praised the movie's action sequences but said it was "sabotaged by lackluster acting, thin characterization, and a derivative storyline." While viewership numbers do not appear to have been archived, it is safe to assume that it also did not bring in enough viewers to justify a series green light.

Even though "Blackjack" didn't exceed expectations, Woo continued to make Hollywood movies for a few more years, such as the aforementioned "Mission: Impossible 2." However, 2008 saw him return to Chinese cinema to direct the two-part war epic "Red Cliff," which starred the legendary Tony Leung as the famous military general Zhou Yu. He hasn't abandoned Hollywood entirely, though, as he is gearing up to release the action thriller "Silent Night," which is seeking distribution at the Cannes Film Market (via Variety).

"Blackjack" might not have started a television series, nor is it fondly remembered among action fans. That being said, perhaps it is actually worthy of cult status, waiting for a proper critical re-evaluation. Maybe so, maybe not. Either way, it is still an example of John Woo being one of the action genre's most innovative voices, as it isn't every day that you hear about a movie centering around a character afraid of a color.

"Blackjack" is available to stream on The Roku Channel.