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Monday, November 3, 2014

FREE FALL -- DVD review by Porfle

Neither DIE HARD nor dead-on-arrival, Anchor Bay's new Blu-ray and DVD release FREE FALL (2014) is a "lite" serving of suspense for viewers who don't feel like gorging themselves on the full meal deal.

Malek Akkad, son of Moustapha and producer of several films in the HALLOWEEN series, serves up Dwayne Alexander Smith's lean, economic script with some equally no-nonsense direction in his feature-film debut. The simple setup gets the ball rolling with a minimum of muss and fuss, beginning with an apparent suicide as a junior business executive apparently takes a swan dive off the high-rise building where he works.

Meanwhile, ambitious exec Jane Porter (Sarah Butler, star of the I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE remake) can't decide what's more important--going off to live the simple life with her low-tech boyfriend Ray (Jayson Blair, "The New Normal", DETENTION OF THE DEAD) or risk losing him in favor of pursuing the brass ring in her high-powered job.

The death of her co-worker not only shakes Jane up but prompts her to investigate, revealing deep-seated corruption that goes all the way to the top (in the person of venerable Malcolm McDowell who classes things up by appearing in a few scenes as company CEO Thaddeus Gault) and possible--make that probable--foul play. And as these things inevitably go, her nosey Nancy Drew act puts her squarely in the top spot for the next hit.

We don't trust any of her coworkers and get a bad feeling when she confides in them about what she's uncovered, especially Ronald Taft (Ian Gomez, MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING), the pudgy, insecure-looking guy whom we've already seen having furtive words with Gault about who knows what.

Once the basics are in place, the story wastes little time in tipping its hand. Taft, who looks like one of those craven office drones who'd sell someone out in a heartbeat, instructs Jane to stay late preparing evidence for an internal security hearing only to show up later with a surly hitman named Frank (D.B. Sweeney, LONESOME DOVE, FIRE IN THE SKY, TWO TICKETS TO PARADISE) to punch Jane's clock for good.

After that it's your basic cat-and-mouse game inside a skyscraper, although the peril is a bit on the TV-movie level--after some initial gunfire and a breathless chase down an emergency stairwell, Jane manages to get stuck in an elevator where she will remain for the majority of the film. Having the main character trapped in an elevator while the evil hitman tries everything but a giant can opener to get her out generates mild suspense, but isn't exactly the sort of thing blockbuster thrillers are made of.

Still, if you go in expecting such modest goings on (I expected Jane to end up crawling around on the outside of the building several stories over the street below, but alas, was disappointed) then FREE FALL delivers adequately. Sarah Butler makes an appealing heroine while D.B. Sweeney, older and more rumpled-looking than I remember him from FIRE IN THE SKY and LONESOME DOVE, isn't quite as scary a hitman as one might wish, but does manage to be fairly imposing and implacable.

The fact that the "Jane" character practices kickboxing in her spare time allows for some gratifying action during her physical encounters with the hostile Frank. This helps to offset the scenes in which their prolonged standoff--she in the elevator, he watching her via a security camera--threatens to slow the film's pace down to a trudge.

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish. A making-of featurette, in which we learn that a 60-foot elevator shaft was constructed just for the film, is the sole bonus feature.

Compared to all the glorious mayhem Bruce Willis managed to get himself into in a skyscraper, the much smaller-scaled FREE FALL comes off as small potatoes. But if you happen to like potatoes, you'll probably find this dish tasty enough.

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