Sony // 2006 // 96 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // May 9th, 2006
The fate of thousands is in their hands.
Look, Wes, you've got nothing to be ashamed of. Kicking ass as a direct-to-DVD action headliner isn't that bad. Sure, it's a few notches down from the B-movie action icon status you had achieved in the '90s, but if you keep doing your thing in decent movies like this one, you can hold your head up high.
Undercover Homeland Security officer Sonni Griffith (Snipes, Blade: Trinity) is known for his reckless behavior and for the trails of bodies that behavior usually produces. His latest sting, an attempt to ambush a powerful arms dealer on Poland, ends in the predictable fusillade of expended shell casings. When the powder residue clears, a pile of Eurotrash baddies lie bullet-riddled and/or broken-necked. Griffith is bottled up by the local authorities, but later sprung free by the C.I.A.
He's given a new assignment: to escort a beautiful woman named Nadia (Silvia Colloca), on the run from the very arms dealer Griffith failed to apprehend. But as soon as he and Nadia get together, violence goes down. Someone in the C.I.A. is feeding intelligence to the scumbags, and Sonni and Nadia are forced to constantly run as the bullets fly.
With a legion of gun-toting (but unskilled-at-aiming) Eastern European villains on their heels, the two fugitives must escape in one piece, while attempting to reveal the traitor in the government ranks.
I like Snipes...as far as one-dimensional action auteurs go, at least. Though there is a sense of apathy in his performance here, his physical presence is as robust as it's ever been, and the man can snarl with the best of them. He also benefits from a pretty decent film vehicle to drive around.
The Detonator, thankfully, isn't quite as forgettable and generic as its uninspired title would suggest. The nuts and bolts are about what you'd expect from action fare of this ilk: a male badass, an exotic female, and a whole load of Euro-dicks to fling bullets into. There's a dash of political intrigue tossed in as well, with the whole mole side story -- which isn't entirely unpredictable -- plus a final bit of biochemical weapon suspense tacked onto the ending for a convoluted finish. Taken at face value, it's not terribly compelling.
Its success comes in the execution. First off, the action in this film is right-on. I contend that this is the most important aspect of these DVD-only releases, because, let's face it, if you're renting it, it probably has something to do with the promise of fireballs and gunfire plastered on the disc cover. And lucky for you, The Detonator delivers.
Snipes is in fine form with his hand-to-hand skills, and, bolstered by some effective editing, his fight scenes are visceral and entertaining. There's a lot more shooting than smacking around, though, and director Po Chih Leong exercises a good command over this on-screen mayhem. Shootouts are fast and bloody and loud, and Leong pulls no punches with what he chooses to show; ammo rips into bodies, squibs explode, and blood blossoms in plumes. Yeah, there are a few of those credulity-straining sequences requisite in all of these actioners, with never-ending clips (one guy even fires an obviously empty pistol, its barrel exposed) and overwrought explosions like the pseudo-nuclear detonation that happens after a tunnel car wreck at the halfway point of the film.
The flick loses a few points as it stumbles through a disjointed denouement, with Leong intercuttting between shots of a soccer game and the final shoot 'em up, culminating in the predictable reveal of the villain pulling all the strings. But these are foibles I can get over. The Detonator is a decent little action picture, stocked with enough havoc to satiate the casual fan.
Sound and video are both up to snuff. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer looks great, boasting strong colors and crisp details, and the 5.1 mix is as loud and active as you'd want it to be. Someone forgot to include the extras, though.
Snipes does his thing well enough, and he's paired with a gorgeous female costar who parades through the movie in a gravity-be-damned Wonderbra. The plot is serviceable and the action is money. A good effort.
How do I like my steak? Not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Rated R