Reviewed by Chris Galloway
Columbia-TriStar, widescreen 1.85:1/16x9, standard 1.33:1, languages: English DD 5.1 [CC] & Dolby Surround, subtitles: English, Spanish, single side-dual layer, 28 chapters, rated R, 86 min., $27.95, street date 3/14/2000.
Directed by Philip Roth. Starring Ken Olandt, Bruce Weitz, Oliver Gruner, Ray Oriel, Alicia Coppola, Jorja Fox.
It is the year 2150, and electronic crime and interstellar piracy rule the galaxy. Facing unlawful murder charges, Police officer Raymond Stokes (Oliver Gruner: Nemesis) is reassigned to escort the Federal Banking Ship USF Atlantic and $40,000,000,000 through the Bermuda Triangle of space: The Velocity Run. With only Beth Sheffield (Alicia Coppola: Star Trek: Voyager), the ship's navigator to assist him, all his strength is put to the test when everything on board is threatened by an oncoming 600 million ton asteroid, and a we-armed team of thieves that have docked alongside the USF Atlantic. In a terrifying race against time, Stokes must fight to survive before the deadly impact.
First off, I am not a big sci-fi kinda guy. There are those few I enjoy. I like stuff like Brazil and Blade Runner. I also enjoyed the original two movies in the Star Wars series and only 1/3 of the Star Trek movies. Otherwise, there aren't too many science fiction flicks that excite me.
So when I received my advance copy of Velocity Trap I was even less enthused. Not only was it sci-fi, it was "straight-to-video" sci-fi. Oh how my heart sank. But I popped it in and gave it a whirl. I am glad to report that isn't that bad. Unfortunately it is still not a very good movie.
It's not even an entertaining "bad movie". I had to force myself to stay awake during this one and it was only 1 in the afternoon when I was watching it. There is no real plot to hold ones interest, your usual cardboard cut out characters, bad dialogue and slow paced action scenes led up to by slow dialogue driven scenes.
The movie stars Olivier Gruner (and this is my first time ever seeing him in a movie) as a security guard named Ray Stokes who is hired to protect the big governor of the planet he is stationed on. After a scene that makes absolutely no sense, the governor is dead and Stokes has been set-up. To avoid a scandal he is to be sent far away. He is stationed on a ship delivering $40,000,000,000 to earth that moves along a stretch called the Velocity Run.
Little does everyone realize, though, that a group of pirates have sent an asteroid in their path to slow them down. Once they are slowed down the pirates will board them and steal the money.
It takes well over half an hour to get to this point and we have nothing but boring, dull and predictable characters to lead us here. And then once we get to the actual action scenes they are tired and labored as well. The guns used actually reminded me in a way of those guns used in Logan's Run, only they sound better.
Because it's a straight-to-video fair, the production value can't be expected to be of Titanic proportions. Still, the effects aren't too bad, they still look fake but they could have been a lot worse. The sets look extremely bad, the computer-generated backdrops used occasionally do look good.
Olivier Gruner reminds me of a sort of Jean-Claude Van Damme. And that's not a good thing. He looks the part of the action hero but he definitely can't act. As for the other performers, they either over-do it or under do it.
The writing and directing is nothing to scream about. The one sequence involving the assassination of the governor is probably one of most confusing and poorly executed scenes I have ever seen. While I think I know what happened, this is a scene that probably looked better on paper. As well, the director doesn't seem to bother trying to cover some of the holes in the plot and in some of the sequences. I'd like to know how everyone in a room can be sucked out into the vacuum of space and only the people that are necessary for the plot could just stroll out without a real problem as people fly by them.
It's not the worst movie ever but it's still a fairly bad one. But all I can say is it is much better than the painful The Suburbans I had just watched before. Still I would have to feel very bad to recommend this to anyone.
And Columbia Tri-Star has released a rather lame DVD for this flick. A film like this could actually have a pretty nice DVD still but they just slapped something together and shipped it out. It is presented in a widescreen ratio of 1.85:1 on this single-sided, dual layered disc. It has been enhanced for widescreen TVs.
The picture is nothing exciting. One of the biggest annoyances is the amount of grain in the film. There are a lot of scenes where grain just rains through. And even some of the better shots present a small amount of grain. It looks as though some of these instances occurred during the transfer and are not actually part of the print itself.
Colors are a little subdued and week. They look slightly over saturated in some cases, especially in some of the effects shots. Black levels are very poor and shadow detail is very low. This is especially bad since the movie takes place in the blackness of space. Sharpness is never a strong suit. The film goes from just a-tad-on-the-soft-side to REAL SOFT. Even the computer-generated segments seem a little fuzzy.
And you had better love shimmering because you get plenty of that. There are plenty of grates and vents presented throughout the film and whenever there is one on screen shimmering goes off the scales.
The sound is also disappointing. The disc comes with a Dolby Digital 5.1 track and a Dolby Surround 2.0 track. The only real difference is that one is somewhat clearer, that being the 5.1 track. Tracks on either have very aggressive forward soundstages but the surrounds are never really used to their fullest.
Dialogue is very clear, as is the music. The music is what uses up the surrounds the most and is quite loud. Ambience effects also happen. Once in a while you can hear beeping noises from the rears as well as echoes of keypads being pressed. And sometimes you can hear a ship coming from behind you.
Yet there are many instances where more could happen. A scene where the ship goes into light speed should have a blast just ripping by us but it's just contained to the front. As well, a sonic boom has the same problem. It just stays in the front. Shoot-outs are also contained to the front. Splits are also not present. Although I guess that isn't really true. While most of the time the rears work in mono there was an instance where the sound of a ship was coming from the right rear only but that was about it. More could have been done, which left me very unsatisfied.
There are a few extras, which aren't that bad. First up is a commentary by Olivier Gruner, Phillip Roth and special effects expert Andrew Hoffman. I wasn't looking forward to this track but I have to say something: This is one of the best damn commentaries I've heard. All it is is a bunch of guys sitting around talking like guys, acting like guys and once in a while commenting on the movie. Quite often they have to remind themselves they're supposed to talk about the movie. Obviously they're just as bored by it as I was.
Olivier is very demanding on his name being pronounced right (pronounced the same as Laurence Olivier's last name) so to tick him off, Phillip will call him Oliver. They're constantly making shots at each other, the effects guy mainly poking at Phillip for some of his directing choices and they both team up on Olivier for not being able to get co-star Alicia Coppola in the sack, as hard as he apparently tried. There's a lot of guy-talk like that throughout, commenting on many of the women ("we needed more cleavage there") and taking cheap shots at each other. It wasn't actually that informative but it was actually quite a funny track. It's a guy track.
You get a trailer that would have been included on other cassettes, lasting only about 30 seconds and has a more exciting editing job than this film does. And then you get some biographies. This is actually very different from your usual CTS biographies. They're quite good! They have pages of stuff for each cast and crewmember and are not your usual couple sentences you usually get from CTS.
And that's it. You don't even get a booklet. Still, the extras it does have are quite good. I especially liked the commentary. Still, the transfer is below par and the movie isn't that good so it shouldn't be too hard to figure I can't recommend this disc. Even sci-fi nuts will be disappointed.
Current as of 3/15/2000
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