The Direct to Video Connoisseur
I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.
Friday, January 28, 2011
Strategic Command (1997)
This is one of those ones that you know, based on the premise and who's making it and just the overall feel, that it's probably going to hurt; but then I see names like Michael Dudikoff and Richard Norton, and I think "okay, this might be sweet"... or I think "I'm the one who came up with the bright idea for me to do a blog on DTV movies, and have guys like Norton and Dudikoff in some kind of Hall of Fame, so now I need to take my medicine, get my whuppin', so to speak." There's no getting around a movie like Strategic Command, I just have to get through it quick, like I'm peeling off a Band-Aid.
Strategic Command rips off Executive Decision, only on a smaller scale, and with some minor tweaks. Michael Dudikoff is a scientist/former Marine special forces officer who designs some nasty shit called Bromax. It's the best industrial floor cleaner on the market-- er, rather, it's an agent used in chemical warfare that will kill people by violently inducing the same phenomenon in them as the kid in elementary school that we'd make laugh so he'd cough milk out of his nose. Anyway, Richard Norton steals it, then hijacks a plane chartered by the Vice President, threatening to blow it up over LA if his demands aren't met. Dudikoff wants to be a part of the rescue team, because his wife was a part of a news interview crew, lead by Bryan Cranston (yes that Bryan Cranston, Tim Whatley, Malcolm in the Middle, Breaking Bad...). Anyway, that's pretty much it.
Wanna see something exciting? Watch this, I'm going to run some stock footage of a generic 747, then run some stock tension music over it. Exciting, huh? Beyond that, this was a sack of ass crack. The only potential good stuff came at the end, but they ruined the fights between Norton and Dudikoff by having them in too confined a space. I know what you're thinking, they're on a plane, it's supposed to be cramped. Yes, except they had enough space to have a more traditional fight between (this kind of movie mainstay) Larry Poindexter and Norton's girlfriend. Really, that's what you're going with? The rest was just crap about will they or won't they shoot someone, will the hostages or won't they try to take back the ship, will Dudikoff save the plane in time before the F-16s shoot, yadda yadda yadda. If I've said it once, I'll say it 100 times: planes, space ships, submarines, etc. do not make action films by themselves. Action must be pumped into them. Yes, I know I'm watching a mindless action film, but when you leave out the action part of it, I'm just left with mindless.
This is like five or six Dudikoff films that are all about the same. Crash Dive, Black Horizon, Black Thunder, Counter Measures, Ablaze, and now this all follow the same pattern. Disaster or hijacking. Call in Dudikoff. Michael Cavanaugh as a higher up. Larry Poindexter as not. May or may not contain Marcus Aurelius. The thing with these is, there's some better stuff of his sprinkled around them, like Bounty Hunters or Moving Target. It's like they're taunting us with good Dudikoff. Still, these wouldn't be so bad if they weren't so boring. Also, as I noticed in this, there can be some long moments without Dudikoff on-screen, which makes it even worse. Here's the thing, if you want to do Die Hard on a plane, do frickin' Die Hard on a plane, don't act like you're going to do it, then inundate us with the same old crap.
Speaking of Die Hard on a plane, Richard Norton's character is named Carlos Gruber. Not as cool as Hans, and there was no great scene where Dudikoff is on the walkie talkie imploring him to "back off Carlos, you've made your point" while Norton looks on, stoned face, saying "hit 'em again." This definitely could've used more of that in it. I'd even have settled for Clarence Gilyard saying "the quarterback is toast!" Anyway, to get on the plane, Norton dons this disguise that makes him look like he'd be one of my dad's friends. Not in the Huey Lewis sense, where he could be anyone's dad's friend, but specifically one of my dad's. I could see someone that looks like him in 1997, when this film was made, pulling up to my parents' place in his Ford F-150, and ask my dad if he could borrow some tools or equipment to do some job.
A quick shout out here to the late Paul Winfield. He was in many films during his long career, but my personal fave of his was Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Remember, he had bugs put in his ear with Checkov. That new Star Trek movie wasn't bad (I think I reviewed it at the end of another post somewhere), but I've yet to see anything that does it for me like part II.
I'm not sure how many of my readers are also into the Golden Age of Hollywood (I hate saying "old movies" because it's so dismissive), but these movies and their usual suspects casts feels like those Warner Bros. pictures from the 30s and 40s, where after I've seen a few, I recognize a lot of the same faces in the supporting roles. Then I see them on TCM, and Robert Osbourne is telling me about this one or that one who did like 50 movies in the 30s as everything from a stable hand to a gang leader, and how this was his big break, and he was even nominated for an Oscar or something. The difference here is, all I get is a feeling, because there's no productions company, no producer, no director, nothing in common that ties all of these movies with their casts that include guys like Michael Cavanaugh and Larry Poindexter, among others, all the time. And it's always these Dudikoff disaster/political intrigue movies too.
I thought this was out of print, but it turns out it's in print, just that Netflix doesn't carry it. Still, with Amazon, the shipping alone will put this outside of what it's worth-- and to be honest, unless you're a Dudikoff completist, anything more than zero isn't worth it. For second opinions, you can check out our friends over at Explosive Action and Comeuppance Reviews (both links are to the post).
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120224/