Judge Eric Profancik's freefalling for you.
Taking Crime to New Heights
Once upon a time there was an action hero named Wesley Snipes. Always in the second tier, Mr. Snipes found himself a great niche to play in, and during the 1990s became something of a minor box office action star. He headlined many movies, made a lot of money, eventually got into trouble with the IRS, and faded into obscurity. As with most actors not fortunate enough to inhabit the rarified air of the premium top tier status, Wesley often did movies that just weren't all that good. Where does Drop Zone rank?
Facts of the Case
U.S. Marshall Pete Nessip (Wesley Snipes, Blade) is asked to transport captured felon and computer hacker extraordinaire Earl Leedy (Michael Jeter, Jurassic Park III) to a new prison. This situation arose as he's to testify in two weeks and an attempt is made on his life in his current prison location. Nessip and his brother and fellow agent Terry (Malcolm-Jamal Warner, The Cosby Show) are flying when an extraordinary "prison break" is executed onboard the 747. Leedy is kidnapped and he and his kidnappers jump out of the plane, currently traveling at 38,000 feet. During the escape, 14 innocent people are killed, including Terry. Pete is off the case, but he means to avenge his brother's death.
Nobody believes the story of Leedy and his kidnappers jumping out of the plane, but Pete knows it's the truth and inserts himself into the worlds of skydivers. There he meets Jessie Crossman (Yancy Butler, Witchblade), who agrees to train him and show him the rounds. Soon Pete finds his man, Ty Moncrief (Gary Busey, Predator 2), who needs Leedy for a most nefarious plot.
Drop Zone is one of Snipes' better pictures. It's not his best, and it's not one of the best action movies out there. Drop Zone is an interesting idea wrapped in some ham and cheese, and a winner of the guilty pleasure award. What saves this one from obscurity is not any great acting, great action sequences, or a spectacular plot surprise. No, it's just an interesting twist on the old genre of good guy chasing the bad guy. That twist, the skydiving, is something you see infrequently; in fact, the only other movie that comes to mind is Point Break, and that one just has a skydiving climax and it's not a true thrust of the story.
Luckily the skydiving gives the movie wings. (Pun intended, obviously.) Because most of us will never jump out of a plane, this movie gives us a little insight into that world. It's new, it's interesting, and that compiled with the overall action and plot makes Drop Zone an easy, pleasurable viewing. It's one of those movies you can put in and not come out knowing you wasted two hours.
Though I did dismiss the acting, there are a few moments that help center things. The opening sequence with Snipes and Warner has a good flow; the two of them have an easy, natural rapport that allows you to buy into the motivation of Pete's character. Later when he's in the midst of his skydiving training, more rapport develops with his new jumping buddies. It's not much, but it's enough to help keep you in the moment. Of course there are way too many moments of questionable and outright bad acting, marring the overall movie. But, as I said, it's a simple, guilty pleasure.
It's probably been a decade since I've seen Drop Zone, and I never saw it on DVD. With this viewing on Blu I had lowered expectations and they were met. This Blu isn't much to talk about, and it's a serviceable disc. Video is 2.35:1, 1080p, and it doesn't excite. I would categorize the picture as a good DVD with accurate colors, decent blacks, and an average level of details. The colors never bleed but they never pop; blacks are good and help the night scenes but aren't exceptional; and even if you squint you won't get much more detail out of the screen. Many times I saw instances of judder and flickering and white flecks (dirt) pop up every now and then. Audio is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that starts out front-heavy, but it gets better as the movie progresses. The soundstage opens up to utilize the surrounds for immersion and the LFE puts out some bass—but nothing too grand or powerful. This too is best labeled as a good DVD.
Bonus features consist of exactly one trailer for Drop Zone.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Wesley Snipes is the man! He's a great action hero brimming with attitude and cool. You can see the anger and drive in his face, you can believe he can take out a group of guys single-handedly, and you have in him an action hero for whom you can root.
Drop Zone, as a movie, is a decent piece of action from the '90s. Compared to today's craziness, there's a certain calm and gentleness about it; in fact, Drop Zone goes out of its way not to be exceptionally violent or gruesome. As a Blu-ray, I wasn't expecting much and that's what I received. The transfers do not sparkle or shine, bonus features are missing, and I'm thus unable to recommend this one. If you have a DVD, keep it. If you don't own it yet, why start now?
Drop Zone is found guilty of dropping the ball.
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