Written for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Office of Film and Broadcasting
Extreme Ops (Paramount) looks an awful lot like one of those supercharged sports-themed TV commercials, with its glossy footage of daredevil athletes snowboarding down sheer ice walls, skateboarding atop trains, and throwing themselves off precipices.
In fact, given that few other situations call for such extreme antics, the movie is actually about the making of a sports-themed TV commercial. Directed by Christian Duguay, Extreme Ops stars Devon Sawa, Jane Pallaske, and Joe Absolom as extreme athletes working with director Rufus Sewell and Olympic downhill skier Bridget Wilson-Sampras on a shoot in the Austrian Alps.
Needless to say, a documentary about the making of a TV commercial would be a tough sell, so there is also a wheezing subplot about a fugitive terrorist (Klaus Löwitsch) hiding out in Austria until his location is inadvertently discovered by members of the shoot crew.
These feeble plot machinations are only an excuse for the film’s main attraction — lots of extreme sports and stunt work featuring the services of an army of athletes and stunt doubles.
The best of these sequences do briefly liven the proceedings, most notably an especially energetic sequence in which Sawa and Absolom struggle to elude a pack of guard dogs. Yet so much of the action is simply generic skiing and snowboarding footage that even the most forgiving enthusiast or action fan will eventually grow impatient with it.
Worse, critical action scenes are poorly edited, making it impossible to tell where characters are in relation to one another. Even in a climactic moment when one of the heroes risks his life against the bad guys, we don’t quite see him do what he supposedly does.
At least the protagonists seem to be enjoying themselves — when they’re not skiing for their lives, of course. Unfortunately, the air of good clean fun is marred by the rather bohemian spirit of the young athletes, who at one point sit in a makeshift hot tub playing a reckless, randy drinking game. The terrorists’ violence, too, is nastier than required by the feather-light needs of the plot.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.