Sony // 1997 // 88 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // April 2nd, 2004
Everyone has a breaking point.
"I'm Charles Sheen, not Charlie Sheen, and I'm PISSED OFF!"
The movie drops us in the middle of a twelve-alarm fire. The blaze has swept through a home, consuming all in its clutches. Everyone, that is, except for ace firefighter Lyle Wilder (Charlie Sheen, or "Charles" as headlined on the disc). Undaunted by the inferno, Lyle charges into the home and emerges cradling a child. Because of his heroic rescue, Lyle is immediately elevated to poster-boy status for the L.A. firefighters.
But behind that winning smile and the shiny medal, L.A.'s bravest is actually a few spots short of a Dalmatian. Living alone, divorced, and perpetually disgruntled, Lyle's only purpose in life is to creep out his neighbors, the suburban-stereotypical Bravertons.
The family knows not to interact with Mr. Congeniality, but accidents happen, and when an errant radio-control airplane crashes through Lyle's bedroom window, the fit hits the shan.
Lyle storms over his property line to chew out the kids and effectively freak mom (Mare Winnington) out. She notifies her concerned husband, Reese (David Andrews), and the Bravertons suddenly find themselves in a cat and mouse game with their deranged neighbor.
Meanwhile Lyle is playing his own game, be it wreaking mayhem on a hapless refrigerator repairman or dodging the inquisitive looks of the police or just brutalizing people with an axe.
Make no mistake: this is a crazy-ass-neighbor flick.
And as such, it's on the formulaic side. Sheen does a pretty good job conveying his bastard aura, quoting mangled scripture, and doing a whole lot of scowling. He is able to project a slow-burn throughout the film (hence the title, renamed from the original 1997 Bad Day on the Block, which just sucks). When the pressure finally breaks through he gets to have fun flipping out. The unfortunate result of which is a wheelbarrow full of genre clichés.
On the other end, the Bravertons fill their stereotypical roles well: dad frowns and plays tough, strong-arming Lyle, mom does a lot of shouting and crying (that is, until her inevitable epiphany of lethal force), and the kids wax a mixture of naïveté and fear.
The best way I suppose to describe the movie is as a relatively decent exercise into the paint-by-the-numbers psycho-neighbor genre -- with some notable exceptions.
First, some more details of Lyle's firefighting bravery are revealed later in the film, and offers an interesting twist. Second, though this is primarily a psychological thriller and Lyle is more of a screw-with-your-head-whackaroo, there is a fairly jolting helping of violence; Lyle not only talks the talk but walks the walk as well. Beyond that, don't expect many surprises with Under Pressure. It's better than most direct-to-video releases, but comparison to anything above that is out of the movie's league.
The disc is barren -- full frame (in a sub-par transfer), no special features, but a 5.1 mix that shines the most in the opening fire scene. After that, it's just threats and banter. Oh, and a surprisingly well-mixed radio-controlled airplane scene. Gosh, it was like the plane was flying around my living room!
Okay, I need a life.
For just-above mediocre fare, Under Pressure dishes it out. Just go in with your "WOW-ME factor" at level 2 or so.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Rated R