I kind of really wanted to like this movie. Unfortunately, it[‘s actors] lack…charisma. John Woo wasn’t exactly dealing with the cream of acting crop, sure, and it’s a big step down to end up with Christian Slater when you’re used to Chow Yun-fat, but when he can’t even make flying through the air sideways while firing two guns cool…you’ve got problems. (Apparently, this is the fault of the studio execs, who trimmed most of the violence and an unknown amount of the characterization.)
So…it’s…it’s not good. But it’s not actually….bad. It’s not nearly as stupid a stupid action movie could be, because every time something is happening that looks like it’s going to be utterly moronic…something else that’s only moderately stupid happens instead. And there are some bits that are just beautiful. Mainly, I think the problem is the cast. While John Travolta has plenty of material to go ham on (and does), Christian Slater and Samantha Mathis as our embattled heroes have a lot less dialogue, and a lot more action-interaction. And while on paper they become a fire-forged, nuke-disarming team…they just utterly and completely lack any spark together. (IMDB claims they were exes, which might explain it.) Slater actually does pretty well too with the bonkers dialogue (“When the day comes when we have to go to war against Utah, we are really going to kick ass.”)–but without it, well…
As far as other performances go, they’re fine. Look, I don’t know anyone else’s name. The black guy who played the good-guy colonel, and the weasely guy who played the weasely-guy analyst were also quite fine.
Plot: Travolta and Slater are Air Force pilots. Travolta is the senior and more colorful Colonel, while Slater is the Captain guy who, if he had a family, would be showing pictures of them to his coworkers. [OH SHIT I’VE BEEN DOING THAT] However, since he’s the heartthrob hero, he manages to eject and survive when Colonel Travolta turns out to be working with a crew of bad guys, crashes of the triangle-stealth-aircraft thingy and steals the nukes. While the Pentagon is sending guys to rappel down canyons (no idea why they couldn’t just walk in, but it does look really fun) and scrambling a weasely-looking analyst to the scene, STAT (….why?), Captain Hero has landed in a national park and is discovered by a cute park ranger girl.
And, well…look, if you’re going to have your lead characters meet and hit it off with a martial-arts-infused knife versus gun Mexican Standoff that becomes a No I Have The Upper Hand But Look I Gave You Your Gun Back Please Trust Me…it ought to be well-choreographed and they ought to have insane levels of chemistry. Neither of these things apply.
Anyhow, whenever John Woo actually has something to sink his stylistic teeth into (the loading a revolver while the attack helicopter approaches montage), it’s great. On the other hand, while our heroes are wandering around in the desert with no way of affecting the plot and nothing to do but attempt to act in the midst of an interpersonal-chemical void, it’s not great.
(Although, the action sequence with the cars was great.) I mean, in what other movie ever have you seen a car chase end with the villain hosing his own car down with a fire extinguisher?
Still, this movie has an interesting degree of charm, partly because it thinks it’s really cool (slow-mo John Travolta in aviator shades striding through the desert! John Travolta chowing down on scenery in teeth-baring display of low-volume hamminess!) and partly because it, well, it kind of is cool. I mean, you’ve got helicopters (that are real helicopters), desert settings (that are real deserts), natural colors (that aren’t washed out with orange and blue filters), explosions (that are real gasoline explosions), and stuff like depth of field (that isn’t zoomed in on some jackass actor’s face as he tries to be theatrical–you get real desert vistas and canyon walls. Quality stuff, especially these days when everything except the jackass actors is CGI.) Woo and company took a crew and a brace of actors and a set of vehicles that they took out into the desert, lined everything up, and hit Go. And it looks good.
(Stupid, but good.)
Anyhoo, the plot proceeds, with our heroes disposing of one nuke relatively safely in an abandoned copper mine (I mean, it does go off), but the other one still at large. Also, the EMP blast has ensured that the government’s response is going to be even more incompetent than it has been so far. Which is pretty freaking incompetent. Nevertheless, our heroes persevere. And if they’d been played by people who could act or at least sell the lame dialogue they’re forced to recite, it would have been a lot more exciting. (The heroine is set up to almost be a cool, tough, actiony but still vulnerable heroine. She just….can’t act, isn’t athletic, can’t do martial arts, has zero chemistry with the hero [even when doing the mandated post-riverborne escape scene cuddling], and isn’t even all that good-looking, though that might just be the 90s’-style makeup.)
So anyway, the heroine ends up on the truck with the nuke whilst the heroes have a brief argument re: SAVE THE GIRL versus I HAVE ORDERS (haha, j/k, we’re gonna save the girl.)
So there’s a helicopter-vs-train action scene, until the helicopter explodes because the pilot forgot that he had ONE JOB and flies INTO A MOUNTAIN. DUDE. It’s a really, really egregious way of turning the battle into a gun-vs-gun fight, which devolves into a fistfight which, what do you expect, the hero wins and oh boy he manages to click-disarm the nuke whilst diving sideways out of the speeding train okay, okay, FINE, yes it is very cool.
Anyhow, day saved, villain killed, heroes hug (so terribly awkwardly it’s probably for the best Woo cuts away quickly). And, well….quiverfull?
Rated: it coulda been a contender.
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