Already adapted from the comicbook into a 2005 TV movie, Sci Fi resurrects “Painkiller Jane” with a new lead in Kristanna Loken, but nothing here is an improvement. The show’s mired in stiff dialogue, clunky voiceover narration, uneven performances and indifferently staged action sequences; even the central premise about a woman who can immediately heal has been overshadowed by the similarly endowed cheerleader on “Heroes” on sister net NBC. As if seeking to obscure its narrative shortcomings, “Jane” frequently employs herky-jerky slow-motion set to a heavily synthesized score, making aspirin a must for consumers of this “Painkiller.”
Jane (Loken) is a DEA agent drafted to become part of an elite crime-fighting team hunting “neuros,” a strain of genetically advanced humans who can influence others with their extra-sensory powers. Unlike in the comics, however, there’s no explanation for her ability to regenerate after injury, with gauzy flashbacks to a young Jane mourning her mother’s death only hinting at a cause.
In one oversimplifying motion, then, the producers not only tether their heroine to childhood cliches but transform their concept into a mundane “Mission: Impossible” meets “X-Files” copycat, with Jane and her crack team, led by the sinewy McBride (Rob Stewart), chasing after “neuros” in the first two episodes. Along the way, they utter turgid lines like “Never let them see you cry again” and demonstrate that surviving a near-death experience can apparently trigger bouts of overacting.
Although visually striking, the statuesque Loken lumbers awkwardly through the smartass exchanges with Stewart, the sort of playful banter that can prove deadly in the wrong hands. And while Sci Fi execs doubtless savored the promotional benefits associated with her role in the third “Terminator” movie, somebody overlooked the fact that the franchise’s murderous cyborg role is traditionally silent.
Hot women in action vehicles have always been perceived as a win-win approach in terms of attracting young men, and based on the production values, one suspects the financial terms on the series (also being pitched in syndication) were favorable, mitigating Sci Fi’s risk. Based on this first meeting, however, only guys with a taste for camp or genuinely desperate to see a female in the living room would willingly book a second date with “Jane.”