Fox // 2000 // 95 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // February 28th, 2004
Once exposed you cannot survive. (Insert Super Bowl halftime show joke here)
Mr. Dolph Lundgren (which in Swedish means: "he who is made of pressure-treated lumber"), the 6' 6" Aryan ass-kicker, is doing what he can to corner the market on direct-to-video actioners. Once a quasi-mainstream action hero, Lundgren and his path to brouhaha stardom hit several potholes in the form of The Punisher (1989) and Masters of the Universe. But he is resilient, and will never be subdued. If his arena is now the obscure shelf at Blockbuster, so be it, for he will evermore be his oak-like self, delivering his lines -- as well as his roundhouses -- with the same cold technique. Unlike other falling-star brawlers (cough, cough, Steven Seagal, cough, cough), he doesn't look as he if he's just followed two Thanksgiving dinners with a salted Humvee. Hey, his name alone sounds like a groin pull. Anyway, he's back in this 2000 Die Hard knock-off, set aboard a nuclear submarine.
Back in the 1930s, America stumbled upon a deadly secret. Through methods not elucidated in the film, the U.S. government accidentally developed a highly contagious and absolutely lethal virus ("The fatality rate is 100%," we are told repeatedly throughout the movie), dubbed Agent Red.
The Russians stole this virus -- and on one tragic day, it escaped and ran amok in a small village, forcing the government to wipe out every man, woman, and child. After three minutes from exposure, the victim gets a splitting headache, then nausea creeps in, and after minute ten blood pours from the eyes, nose, mouth, and nipples (?!) Skittish about still having the deadly contagion, the Russian government decided to up and give it back to the U.S. (what, there are no garbage disposals in Russia?), and Matt Hendricks (Lundgren) is tapped to escort the virus home. Also along for the ride is his ex-fiancée Linda (Meilani Paul), a virologist that looks as much like a virologist as Denise Richards looked like a nuclear scientist in The World Is Not Enough and I look like a contender for a wrestling cruiserweight title.
Of course the transfer can't go off without a hitch and that's when a team of terrorists from the Eurotrash Terrorist Organization ("proudly supplying Eastern European mercenaries since 1988"), stowaway and take control of the sub.
They release the virus, killing hundred of sailors whose bodies magically vanish (not unlike Streets of Rage for the Sega Genesis, where defeated goons just disappeared.) In fact, there are no bodies in this movie, as even dispatched bad guys mysteriously evaporate.
What follows is a race against the clock, as Hendricks picks off foe after foe and the maniacal Dr. Kretz (the terrorist leader) makes the absolute dumbest moves in the history of inept movie villains, to ensure his downfall.
Of course there would be no drama in the movie if the Navy didn't implement strategies just as idiotic, and they do, time and time again, until both terrorist and admiral embark on a chess game of rampant mental retardation.
It's up to Hendricks to break the stalemate and dole out the beatings.
Early in the movie Lundgren's character is asked if he's ever heard of "Agent Red." His reply? "It sounds like a bad action movie." In the spirit of this spot-on observation, allow me to offer some observations of my own:
Chuck Taylors are standard issue footwear for Marine special-forces. Hendricks runs around through the movie clad in these throwback sneakers, a totally mystifying move by the wardrobe department. Okay, I'll give you that they tore through their budget and "Mr. Lundgren's shoes" may have been cut, and that, perhaps, there wasn't a Payless Shoes nearby, but come on, couldn't he have chosen a pair of sneakers that didn't make him look like he was dashing off to a Dropkick Murphys concert after saving the world from a viral holocaust?!
Inserting footage from other movies helps keep costs down. All of the submarine scenes -- yes, all of them -- came directly from Crimson Tide. I've seen that film dozens of times and there is no doubt that director Tony Scott should get credit for doing this movie as well (if he wants it, that is.) And to mix it up, the Agent Red filmmakers used the same footage and zoomed in, or flipped it to give the appearance of new submarine sequences.
"Dear Mr. Bruckheimer, thanks for helping us out with our movie. Without you we'd have to set the whole thing in our old high-school cafeteria. Sincerely, the Agent Red production team."
When fighter jets fire missiles, they turn into torpedoes as soon as they hit the water. Not only that, they can't hit anything anyway. Who approved this line item in the Navy budget?!
If there's a female villain and female hero, they will fight each-other. This is of course an action movie staple. You can't have the roid-monster male protagonist savagely beat the sexy, petite evil woman into mascara paste. That just wouldn't be right.
There is no dramatic tension because the evil ringleader makes the stupidest decisions. To name a few: a) he hatches a plan to draw Hendricks out by parading Linda around with only two oblivious guards, resulting in Linda being rescued and Kretz down some valuable leverage and two more of his crew dead (and disappeared), b) he clues "ZNN," the cable news network, about his plan, thus tipping his hand completely to the Navy, and, c) every time he has Hendricks where he wants him (knocked out on several occasions) he doesn't finish him off.
Oh, but wait, the Navy leaders are just as moronic! Is it Naval policy to abort an attack on a sub known to be carrying a deadly virus and hijacked by terrorists when some faint S.O.S. rapping can be heard on sonar? And then having the attack sub blown out of the water because of it?
Virologists who look like porn stars probably don't know what the heck they're talking about. Everything Linda said about the virus is untrue. Everything.
As for the disc, you're looking at pretty bare bones. Full-frame video, 2.0 sound, no bonus features save the trailer (which actually makes the movie look semi-respectable), and a boring presentation makes Fox's effort here worthy of a depth charge.
Ahoy matey, everyone abandon ship!
The court recognizes Jerry Bruckheimer's argument and allows him to reclaim the Crimson Tide footage that was stolen from his movie. As a result Agent Red's runtime is cut by 45 minutes or so, and is thus sentenced to time served as a late-night flick on the USA network, after the fifth episode of Walker, Texas Ranger and before the infomercial on the male enhancement frappe.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 2000
MPAA Rating: Rated R