Sony // 2001 // 98 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Jonathan Nelson (Retired) // June 6th, 2003
He thought he was protecting her life.
Instead he was saving America.
I want my 98 minutes back. This is your first clue about how much I enjoyed Ignition. The back of the case claims the movie is "A taut political thriller!" So, if by "taut" they mean "loose-ended," and by "political" they mean "evil military with bad attitudes," and if by "thriller" they mean "boring eye-clawing inducing piece of filmmaking," then yes, they are spot on. This movie is how not to make a movie.
All right, let me try to make sense of things for you. Bill Pullman (Independence Day, Titan AE, Casper) is Conor Gallagher, an ex-Marine Corps helicopter pilot, highly decorated, but busted down to U.S. Marshall because of rage issues and drug abuse. He is assigned a babysitting job of protecting federal Judge Faith Mattis (Lena Olin, Queen of the Damned, Chocolat, The Ninth Gate, Alias) after a mail bomb explodes in her office. She, being the "nothing can hurt me" type, refuses the offer of a bodyguard and goes along with her life as if no bombs blew up in her office today. The reason someone is sending her mail bombs centers around the current case she is hearing about supposed military overspending, because amazingly the President wants to cut the military budget while simultaneously having the Air Force put together and launch the first manned mission to the moon in 30 years. Meanwhile, a team of soldiers from Gulf War I are mysteriously dying and/or disappearing, and the one surviving member is the key to Judge Mattis' case, but he is nowhere to be found. Get all that?
Will the mystery of the soldiers be relieved in time? Will Judge Mattis accept the help of her reluctant bodyguard? Will the manned moon mission launch or even take place? Will any of us still be awake and not blind to watch that far into the movie?
There is probably a good movie somewhere in all of that. It's just too bad it didn't make it on to this movie. It has all of the ingredients: things blow up, dramatic chase scenes, fights, everything "a taut political thriller" needs; it's just that none of it works in this movie. The explosions resemble low budget made-for-TV effects. The chase scenes involve two people running down an alley while one car chases them. The fights are against an old guy who is disgruntled for some reason that is never explained. You can tell everyone involved tried their best to make the most of what was given to them, but it's painfully obvious that they just don't care, the material is just not there. Tom Clancy this is not.
Everything feels hollow, from the script to the acting. This is not your usual lovable Bill Pullman fare, and he is definitely not in his element here. Nothing about Lena Olin's character feels believable, from her personality to her motivation. Where does it say that a Federal Judge must do private investigating for her clients? Isn't that a slight conflict of interest that a federal judge would know not to do? Colm Feore (Chicago, Point of Origin, The Sum of All Fears), as the head bad guy General Joel MacAteer, does about as good a job convincing us that he is capable of all that he has done as is the local ice cream man at retiring at the age of 13. It ain't gonna happen, folks. The one bright spot on the acting front is Michael Ironside (Starship Troopers, The Perfect Storm) as the seriously underused Russo, the last surviving member of that Gulf War I group. His screen time is limited to one speech and a few looks of concern into the camera. Aside from that, his presence is totally wasted and miscast. This movie would have been ten times better had he played the General, but we'll never know for sure. The final notable actor worth mentioning is Peter Kent (Re-Animator), purely because he is downright scary as Brunson, the muscle behind the General's plans.
The DVD presentation is far superior to the movie itself, and in that respect is very misleading. The menus and quality of the technical aspects of the DVD merit far higher marks than the movie itself. The video presentation is adequate for the material, but the style play of colors and shot angles is nowhere near consistent. At least there is no grain to distract you from the poorly constructed shots. The sound is about the same, nothing special, but it gets the job done. If you are unable to understand the lines of dialogue, it's not you or your speakers, it's the script, so don't worry about it. The actors don't really know what they are saying either.
Extra features include the usual cast and director bios, trailers for the film and three others: I Spy, xXx, and Sniper 2. There is a short eight-minute behind the scenes segment mostly of interviews with the cast and director Yves Simoneau. It is not all fluff; they do talk about their experience on the set and making the film. Bill Pullman mentions how dissimilar it was to the other films he's done...no kidding, Bill. There is also a director commentary, but I was so put off from my first viewing that I couldn't fathom a second. Plus, my friends threatened to kill me if I made them sit through this awful movie again.
It can't all be bad, can it? Well, yes, it can. It doesn't say anywhere that movies have to be good. It's just people usually tend not to buy the bad ones. The cover art does show an interesting missile bisecting the main characters with the White House in the background, but I'll be Bill Pullman if that missile shows up anywhere in the actual film. Maybe it is supposed to be the rocket that goes to the moon, but as is clearly seen late in the movie, they look nothing alike, except that they are both painted white.
If someone you love gives you this disc as a present, your relationship is in trouble, 'cause they don't love you anymore. If you are forced to possess it, use it as a coaster for your favorite beverage while you watch a real movie. Feel free to rent this bomb is you are into S&M, but otherwise donate your $5 to your favorite charity of choice. Trust me, you'll feel better about yourself.
Abort! Abort! We have a no-go for launch! Ignition is found guilty on all accounts, and worst of all is accused of putting this bomb in the judge's DVD collection. Case adjourned!
Review content copyright © 2003 Jonathan Nelson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Director Commentary
* Behind the Scenes Interviews
* Theatrical Trailer
* Bonus Trailers
* Director and Cast Filmographies