Lionsgate // 2004 // 90 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // October 21st, 2005
The fate of humankind is only a slip away.
A straight-to-video actioner, Sub Zero chronicles the exploits of a group of hip mountain climbers and their super-secret mission from the government to reclaim a hijacked mega-weapon. Alas, no one gets their spine ripped out (that last one is for you early '90s video arcade aficionados).
The United States is stunned to discover that a group of dirty Russian terrorists have infiltrated a U.N. tracking station, killed everyone inside, and made off with the trigger to a state-of-the-art EMP satellite weapon. Before they can get far, they're blown out of the sky by the Russian government, but the trigger, a goofy-looking plastic cube with L.E.D. lights, managed to survive the crash, and is somewhere on the north face of K2.
Unfortunately, the cube is already in the countdown stage, and the satellite is primed to open fire with its deadly EMP pulse on a random target. Worse, a handful of douche bag rogue nation-states are threatening full-scale nuclear retaliation on the U.S. to any attack from the satellite.
Scrambling, the government enlists the help of expert mountain-climber and owner of a kick-ass action movie star name, John Deckert (Costas Mandylor, Gangland). Deckert agrees to take on the mission, a suicidal climb up K2 during its deadliest weather season (a point of which we are constantly reminded by other characters; sample dialogue: John -- "We are climbing K2!" Every Character That Hears This -- "That's suicide!"). John puts together his crack squad of climbers, minus his close friend Soloman Davis (Linden Ashby, Mortal Kombat), who, after a Cliffhanger-like tragedy, ran off and joined a monastery.
With time ticking down, and the mountain unleashing merciless weather, Deckert and company will have to overcome the impossible odds, as well as a Russian terrorist or two, and save the world.
Despite some awesome aerial mountain imagery and a handful of well-done action effects, Sub Zero does nothing to separate itself from any of the beaucoup video-only action flicks that assault the rental shelves.
The plot is an amalgam of adventure movies that came before it: the super EMP satellite weapon from Goldeneye, the mountain-climbing and subsequent disasters from Vertical Limit, and the pervasive Eurotrash terrorist threat from Every Action Movie Ever Made. Too bad nothing new is done to infuse this material with life beyond the generic.
Alas, that's what Sub Zero eventually succumbs to, its overwhelming feel of non-noteworthiness. I wish I can point to something that distinguishes this film from any other of its blah brethren, but I can't: it's not a horrible movie, it's just utterly so-so.
The characters are uninteresting for one. Mandylor plays a decent tough guy, but he pretty much just barks orders during the mission; Ashby's Davis suffers through a half-assed storyline of a man coming to terms with his grief, blah blah blah; the token female seems nothing less than a token female; and the hotshot other climbers are your typical fratboy coolsters who rip into authority and crack unfunny jokes. Plus a lack of any discernible villain -- until the end -- hurts, leaving the heavy work to the mountain.
Which I will give credit for: Sub Zero contains some nice mountain scenes, specifically the avalanche sequences and a requisite man-plummets-into-an-ice-chasm bit. Yet despite this hullabaloo, I didn't come away from the film thinking that K2 was that suicidal. There were some storms and a lot of snow and one guy slid down the mountain a little bit, but overall the climb less like a death-defying act of survival and more a leisurely jaunt up a ski slope.
The final demerits are awarded for the film's completely forgettable score (possibly produced from the "Automatic Action Movie Soundtrack Generator"), a handful of horrible CGI shots -- in fact, Sub Zero may win the award for Cheapest-Looking Parachute Drop Put on Film -- and the hilarious cube trigger device, which appeared to be a discontinued electronic game from Mattel.
The film does excel in the technical department however, and might just be one of the finest looking DVD transfers I've ever seen from Lions Gate. Seriously. The colors are stunning and detailing is immaculate. The contrast between the climbers' bright outfits and the white snow is especially vibrant. Though the audio mix isn't 5.1, the 2.0 stereo holds up remarkably well, and gets aggressive when decoded through Dolby Pro Logic II.
The extras, on the other hand...well, they must have fallen into that pesky ice chasm.
Sub Zero is a barely serviceable, and immediately forgettable, survival/action flick. Some great looking exterior shots and a fine technical presentation can't defray the tangible feel of "generic" emanating from the screen; it's the DVD equivalent of those bags of puffed rice cereal on the bottom shelves of the supermarket aisle.
The accused is sentenced to six months of hard time, making snow angels and sucking on icicles.
Review content copyright © 2005 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13