Lionsgate // 2003 // 97 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // November 21st, 2003
The crisis is global. But their battle...is personal.
When tensions between the two remaining superpowers (read: the US and...China?) grow ever so saucy, leave it to the British to come up with one blood pudding of a summit suggestion. The erudite English believe that a Presidential holiday at sea aboard the UK's premiere luxury liner with a well-known action superstar and his martial arts expert main squeeze is just the ticket to unglue any sticky wicket. And since the USA has their top government spy guys on the job -- ATF Agent Tom Kellogg and his badass battle creeking brother Secret Service Agent Vince -- nothing can possibly go wrong. Well, no sooner has America's first female leader placed her absolute faith in these feebs than someone tries to explode her. Then the actor's arm candy turns out to be a rascally Taiwanese terrorist. She has another bomb on board and a Chinese sub filled with plutonium pranks parked right under the QE2. And she's got demands. Those makers of knock-off designer accessories and overpriced sports shoes have a bone to pick with Chairman Mao's territorial master plan and they wanna be free, like the warm September wind, babe. And they're willing to launch the nuclear arsenal on the rest of the world to get their way. Can Vince get over his bout with the runs to handle this hostage crisis? Or will crazy thrill craving Tom have to "defuse" the entire situation single-handed/brain-celled-ly. Either way, these two titans of testosterone know that the only way to handle an initial attack is with a very long and very boring Counterstrike.
If there is one lesson to be learned from the made-for-television taint that is Counterstrike, it's that, if you are wise, you will never, ever, ever piss off Taiwan. Getting on this Asian anarchist's sh*t list is just a really bad idea. J-Lo singing career bad. Madonna kissing Britney bad. McDonald's McGriddles bad. This little island nation off the coast of China can apparently easily commandeer a nuclear arsenal, a band of rogue ex-patriot US military men, a Hollywood hunk and his entire production company, and one of the most famous ocean liners in the free world without breaking a sovereignty sweat. And this seizure skill seems to rub off on all their cooperating co-conspirators. The American soldiers easily overtake an entire Sino submarine. Another band of brothers fool the folks down at Customs and Shipping. Even more participants play act as part of a Tinseltown posse. Apparently, everything is a crime wave cakewalk for the Taiwanese. So the question becomes, why use terrorism to get their independence from pesky Peking? Why not just call up some more of their international felony favors, infiltrate the Forbidden City, and blow up the Three Gorges dam while they're at it? Just another day at the office for the ticked-off Taipei, right? Well, perhaps it's not all blasting caps and kung fu for these plucky nationalists. Maybe there are flaws in their freedom-by-force scheme. And leave it up to those ham-fisted heroes, the Americans, to figure out a way to circumvent their coercion. This bent for bully butting-in is what Counterstrike is all about.
This movie was originally known as Attack on the Queen in Australia. But after numerous complaints that the story had nothing to do with RuPaul or Vin Diesel, the title was changed. Not that any kind of alteration, physical or lifestyle, would have made much difference. The acting here should be used as an example of the difference between big screen emoting and small screen script reading. Rob Estes delivers every line likes he's just gotten back from a 5K, his delivery is so full of breathy urgency. Joe Lando, on the other hand, appears to be hiding an accent that no one knew he had. He adds so much misplaced diction to his tough talking mandates that you'd swear he was sitting for the citizenship exam next week. Only Marie Matiko as Monica Chang gives a performance of understated seriousness. She is a great villain, a hair-triggered bitch ready to kick any and all ass that comes her way (or at least threaten the doo-doo out of it). She instantly brightens a very dull, derivative story. Everything else seems recycled and re-done, from the seen-it-before submarine battles to the badly choreographed chick fights between Matiko and Aussie Rachel Blakely. With action scenes that stink of formula stupidity (the director is Jerry London, responsible for many episodes of the Lando leprosy known as Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman) and a conclusion born out of convenience and desperation, Counterstrike is an easily forgettable humiliation. It takes forever to get started and then once it does, the pieces don't fall into place: they scatter like rats from a soon to be sinking ship.
Lions Gate tries to gussy up this Down Under dung with a decent transfer and subatomic sound. Unfortunately, neither is something to go ballistic over, in either a good or bad way. The 1.33:1 full screen image looks broadcast friendly. On an interesting side note, the television commercial fadeouts are left in, and they each take about five full seconds before we return to action (or mostly the lack thereof). Since we get about ten of these throughout the film, that means there are almost 50 seconds of blank, dead air on the disc, 97 minutes and 50 seconds if you count the film proper. Sonically, the Dolby Digital 5.1 does provide a few immersive moments: the torpedoes sound like they're racing from channel to channel. But overall, the aural aspect of this disc is as unspectacular as the plotline. Lions Gate does not present any movie specific extras to bolster this balderdash, but at least they out-bonus Artisan and give some trailers for other releases. They are uninteresting at best. And after all, why should they upstage this sour, soggy stupidity?
Counterstrike is the kind of movie that might have worked had the leads been cast for star power (not scale paycheck availability) or the direction top notch (not cheesy nacho). Here's hoping that our current war on terror is not being manned by such misguided macho mopes as the Brothers Kellogg. Before you know it, the Cayman Islands will be booting our booty around.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13