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Case Number 09727

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Robert Ludlum's Covert One: The Hades Factor

Sony // 2006 // 165 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // July 25th, 2006

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All Rise...

Judge David Johnson is working on a Robert Ludlum-inspired novel. He's calling it The Aquamarine Transgression. That's all he's got now though. Just the title.

The Charge

Catch them, before it catches you…

Opening Statement

Robert Ludlum is back in the spotlight now that his Bourne franchise has hit paydirt in the theatres. The latest work of his to receive the visual treatment is The Hades Factor, a supposed joint writing, based on Ludlum's unpublished materials. The filmmakers want you to think its akin to The Bourne Identity with the strikingly similar packaging, but does it pack the same substance?

Facts of the Case

Oh crap, it looks like terrorists have gotten their hands on a tremendously deadly virus called Hades, a particularly vicious strain of Ebola. The scumbags are intent on unleashing the virus on high-density population targets in the United States and the only agency capable of thwarting this diabolical scheme is Covert One, an ultra-clandestine counter-terror unit that reports directly to the President (Angelica Huston).

This threat will require the best Covert One has to offer, even if that means recruiting former operative Jon Smith (Steven Dorff), a bad-ass field agent and an expert on bioterror. But Smith is reluctant to come back, perfectly satisfied with his innocuous teaching position and happy relationship with his hot blonde girlfriend.

Meanwhile, another Covert One agent (Mira Sorvino) has apparently gone rogue, stealing a Hades sample, and offing fellow agents. Wait, it gets worse! The virus is worming its way through the American population, and terrorists have planted more bombs. It's time for Smith to leap back into action and negotiate the serpentine mystery—and discover the truth is a lot more unoriginal than it seems.

The Evidence

The Hades Factor was a television miniseries that aired on CBS. Clocking in at a bulging 165 minutes, it will require a substantial commitment to hang with the Covert One crew. Will your dedication pay off? It depends. What are your feelings about sitting through lots of plot and talking, a slight amount of action, loads of "spy music," a derivative virus doomsday threat and a frustratingly foreseeable conclusion?

The Hades Factor is a slick, polished production and staffed with a strong cast. What ultimately leads to its undoing and its descent into the realm of mediocrity is the story. It flirts with edginess and relevance in the beginning, then traipses into cliché and the usual "we suck" theme that infiltrates so many of these political thrillers. It's like we can't get a decent action flick that excludes us as the bad guys in some degree. Maybe this is all a gigantic spoiler, but anyone who's seen any movie similar to this will likely predict the outcome (and the big bad at the end of the conspiracy). Look, I'm sorry if I gave too much away, especially as this thing is so plot-driven, but this "twist" that has infected my old-fashioned red-meat American action movie storytelling for far too long. So, screw you self-loathing screenwriters!

But digress no more shall I. What the film excels at is the technical stuff. Director Mick Jackson deftly uses colors to bolster the settings, which are varied. Cold blue for the Covert One HQ, glaring yellow for the hills of Afghanistan, and so on. This stylistic tactic augments the solid production design evident throughout the film; The Hades Factor looks legit in a big-budget theatrical way. Dorff is a fine protagonist and has enough of a physical presence—and a guttural howl—to carry the movie. Sorvino doesn't add much to the kick-ass babe archetype, but she look great and shoots lots of people.

If only there was satisfying story to drive all this. See, at the end of the day you're still dealing with a near three-hour entry into a genre that usually average 100 minutes max and if the plot is anything less than riveting, brother that's a long haul. And that's what The Hades Factor is: a marginally-at-best entertaining long haul.

The technical merits are solid: a sharp 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and an aggressive 5.0 Dolby Digital audio mix. Just trailers for extras.

Closing Statement

Hey, Ludlum is the man, and there's a lot that's right with this movie. Unfortunately what's wrong with it—tedious storyline, ludicrous conclusion, and sparse action—cripples the production.

The Verdict

The accused is shuffled off to Gitmo.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 90
Audio: 90
Extras: 50
Acting: 80
Story: 75
Judgment: 77

Perp Profile

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.0 Surround (English)
• English
Running Time: 165 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Television
• Thriller

Distinguishing Marks

• Trailers


• IMDb

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