(director:C.J. Julianus; screenwriter: Lorrisa Julianus; cinematographer: John Wesley Norton; editor: Lorrisa Julianus; music: Lisa Liu ; cast: Lorrisa Julianus (Ava Moriarty), Mickey O’Sullivan (Father Radovan), Shannon Brown (Gabe Amador), Cynda Williams (Deb), Bonnie Morgan (Mardee), Molly Morgan (Ashley), Adam Christopher (Boris), Joette Waters (Cora), Robyn Coffin (Lana), Dave Lichty (Mayor Kupsik), Kalle Jogisoo (Vladimir); Runtime: 111; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Lorrisa Julianus/John Wesley Norton/C.J. Julianus; Binary Star Pictures/Amazon Prime Video; 2020)

It has some captivating moments when on top of its game.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An oddball indie action-rom-com directed with verve by C.J. Julianus(“The Dryver”) and written with equal verve by his wife Lorrisa Julianus. It has some captivating moments when on top of its game, but brings things down a bit with unneeded lectures on women’s rights (which seemed out of place for this film).

Ava Moriarty (Lorrisa Julianus, the screenwriter), the film’s Maneater, is an intelligent, beautiful and sassy kick-ass young lady, who looks great in black leather and seems to have a thing for whips and stolen art. She’s a PhD and an art historian, who after falling in with a bad crowd in a small Illinois town is now an unhappy dominatrix who wants out. Her ruthless Russian gangster boyfriend Boris (Adam Christopher) dumps her and orders her to pay back in thirty days the money she loaned from him to go into business. The other bad news is that Ava’s intended real estate developer business partner, the gay Gabe (Shannon Brown), turns up dead and the money she gave him for a partnership in the business, money she now needs to return to Boris, is missing.

In a desperate attempt to get the money for Boris, Ava partners with the corrupt Mayor Kupsik (Dave Lichty), who wants to take over the property of an Episcopalian church, run by the new Serbian minister Father Radovan (Mickey O’Sullivan). The Father, believe it or not, moonlights as a mixed martial arts fighter, while supporting his ailing mother (Joette Waters). Ava agrees to seduce the minister and to take incriminating photos, in a scheme to get the church property through blackmail. But Ava can’t help falling in love with the hunky vic and ruining the blackmail plot.

This romance leads to a lighthearted story that might strain credibility, but is a fun watch because Lorrisa Julianus is a one woman phenom, who makes for a sexy lead, is adept as the screenwriter and also handles the chores as the co-producer and editor. Hey, if that’s not enough, she can also do martial arts and sing. I’m quite sure if the movie required it, she can also bake a cherry pie.

The burning questions might be how did the church get such an invaluable painting and how about those Russians as bad guys. It’s not a complicated film (though not a believable one), and it answers these questions and others it raises as if it were child’s play. Wish it was more credible and had a little more going for it.

REVIEWED ON 5/16/2021  GRADE: B-