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Friday, April 9, 2010

DEADLY IMPACT -- DVD review by porfle

Sometimes a movie can be fun to watch in spite of itself, and DEADLY IMPACT (2009), which is not only cheesier than a bag of Cheetos but also saddled with one of those terminally generic titles which means absolutely nothing, is one of those guilty pleasures.

Thomas Armstrong (Sean Patrick Flanery, BOONDOCK SAINTS, YOUNG INDIANA JONES) is a tough New Mexico cop trying to track down an elusive hitman named David Kaplow but better known as The Lion (Joe Pantoliano). When Kaplow devises a diabolical trap in which Armstrong must shoot his own wife in order to save the lives of ten other people, the devastated cop quits the force and flees to Mexico to forget.

But eight years later he's contacted by a beautiful FBI agent named Isabel Ordonez (Carmen Serano, URBAN JUSTICE) who informs him that The Lion is back and Armstrong's help is needed to identify him. Thus, the former cop will return to seek revenge for his wife's death while the hitman plans to settle their old score as well, using his skills as a demolition expert to bring the city to its knees. Before it's over, Armstrong will face yet another agonizing loss as The Lion outwits him once again.

Director Robert Kurtzman has all the ingredients for a first-rate thriller but lacks the finesse to render anything more than a passable potboiler. While he handles some of the non-action and dialogue scenes pretty well, he tends to rely on the same old DTV tricks to punch things up--shaky-cam, jittery zoom, clumsy stylistic flourishes, and other irritating touches which are superfluous and intrusive--all of which detract from rather than add to the overall effect.

Luckily, he has a good editor who has used his footage to its best advantage and helped fashion several sequences that crackle with suspense. The killer opening gets things off to a rousing start, with Armstrong faced with the decision of putting a bullet through his wife's heart (where the button that will neutralize the bomb is taped) or letting an entire basement full of fellow officers blow up. Several more tension-filled bomb scenes follow, including one in which city hall is wired to explode and snipers hired by The Lion are picking people off as they run from the exits. The climax, which comes full circle by taking place in yet another basement with another bound woman whom Armstrong cares about, is a further example of good editing making the most of some below-par direction.

The film is somewhat of a cheapjack variation of Wolfgang Petersen's IN THE LINE OF FIRE though hardly in the same league--the coldly efficient, brilliantly clever bad guy of that film is the model for Pantoliano's character, while much of the cat-and-mouse stuff (particularly the taunting telephone conversations) is similar. Like John Malkovich in the earlier film, The Lion is a master of disguise, and he enjoys matching wits with his opponent as long as he maintains the upper hand.

Pantoliano brings his considerable talent to bear in the role, which helps elevate the film to a higher level whenever he's onscreen. He really is fun to watch. As Thomas Armstrong, Sean Patrick Flanery (who resembles a "lite" version of Mickey Rourke) gets to play a realistic human being instead of the usual out-of-control rogue cop with nerves of steel. Carmen Serano does okay as FBI agent Ordonez, although their impromptu Cinemax-style sex scene in her office might have been better left out. A subplot featuring Armstrong's former partner Alba (Greg Serano, Carmen's real-life husband) being blackmailed by Kaplow into trying to assassinate a senator (Fredrick Lopez, who played Quick Jimmy in STREETS OF LAREDO) yields a few more suspenseful surprises.

The DVD from MGM/Fox Home Entertainment is in 1.78:1 widescreen and 5.1 Dolby Surround with English subtitles. No extras.

While clearly looking like the direct-to-video B-movie that it is, DEADLY IMPACT still manages to be a consistently entertaining thriller that rises above its shortcomings and keeps things pretty tense all the way to the twist ending. It's no IN THE LINE OF FIRE, but with all the shoot-outs and explosions, not to mention the always-welcome presence of Joe Pantoliano, I ended up enjoying it a lot more than I expected to.

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