Lionsgate // 2003 // 90 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // July 30th, 2004
Weather is awesome. At least Pete Jensen (Joe Lando) thinks so. And he wants you to think so too! So come with him as he faces off with the biggest storm ever, in this photocopy of classic disaster movies, and watch him put the "clone" in "cyclone."
As a weather-stud, Pete Jensen was unrivaled in expertise and ambition. He lived for the funnel cloud, got his jollies on the thunderheads. At the start of the film, he and his best friend/cohort Bob Booker (Peter Graham-Gaudreau) are on the trail of an F5 tornado. As Jensen watches the funnel cloud lay waste to the surrounding farmland, he is horrified to see it veer direction and head straight for his home.
By the time he reaches his house, barely the foundation remains. His daughter survived, holed up in the cellar, but mom got sucked into the vortex and is now probably lodged in a tree somewhere in Tibet.
Crushed by the tragedy, Jensen flees life as he knows it, maintaining only minimal contact with his daughter, and trading in his Doppler radar for a Glock. Years later, now a big-city cop by trade, Jensen is drawn back to his small-town Oklahoma homestead for his daughter's graduation.
After a rudimentary visit to his wife's grave and a chilly face-off with his daughter, Jensen hooks up with Booker to catch up. Lucky for Jensen, Booker is on his way to track a monster storm. Well you can't take the wind out of the boy, so Jensen jumps on board a super weather plane that features a lot of superfluous blinking lights.
Little do these weather geeks know that a HUMONGOUS storm is on the way, ready to ravage all in its path. This includes the Environmental Disease and Control Lab, which houses some extra-deadly toxins and viral strains that, if freed by, say, a freak tornado attack, will wipe out scores of people.
The race is on, as the storm gathers and Jensen, along with his new girlfriend, intrepid reporter Julia Merrow (Nicole Eggert), must outrun one bad mamma-jamma of a CGI twister, before it spawns biological genocide.
For a movie about high-speed storm-fronts, Devil Winds moves like the wheezing of a chain smoker. The disaster portions of this disaster movie are short and few and far between.
Sure there's an utterly disposable, drawn-out car chase in the beginning, but it makes no sense. It is merely there to a) show us Jensen is a good guy and our protagonist and b) possibly extend the runtime of the movie. Maybe if the criminal had been an evil scientist responsible for the impending weather hijinks, but no he's just some third-rate car-jacker.
The twister sequences are painfully fake looking, and thus generate zero suspense for our heroes in danger.
Gasp! Will they survive the...diabolical computer animator?
I know it's difficult to suspend disbelief with a direct-to-television budget, but seriously folks, you've seen better storm system effects on the screen behind your local meteorologist.
This is all bracketed by a cliché-drenched narrative and dopey characters. There's the head of the bioresearch plant, unwilling to close down and move the contagions off-site. Or the slippery director of the weather bureau who is in cahoots with a corrupt senator.
You see their greed has blinded them to the threat of biological holocaust; they are willing to forfeit their humanity, trade the safety of millions for their own selfish ambitions, and it is a choice that will leave their very souls as dark and consuming as the ferocious maelstrom that approaches.
The meat of these kinds of flicks is the world-altering disasters and how the good guys combat them. But in Devil Winds, the climactic action finds Jensen and company driving a van...real fast. The end.
On the surface, it looks like we have ourselves a snappy disc treatment, what with a widescreen presentation supported by a 5.1 digital mix. But once Devil Winds gets running, prepare to be blown away by its mediocrity. The video quality is atrocious, sporting some very bad pixelation. And the audio mix makes zero use of the surrounds, a profound disappointment what with winds whipping about and fence-poles sailing by and things generally getting obliterated. Everything is front-loaded and tinny.
Just a trailer for extras.
Low-budget disaster movies like Devil Winds need a lot more "disaster" in them than "movie," if you ask me.
There's a reason the movie title seems like a euphemism for flatulence. Court adjourned.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Rated PG