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Case Number 05922

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Unstoppable (2004)

Sony // 2004 // 96 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // January 7th, 2005

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All Rise...

After defeating legions of vampires and saving the world, Blade's next conquest appears to be the direct-to-video shelf, says Judge David Johnson.

Editor's Note

Our review of Unstoppable (2010) (Blu-ray), published February 15th, 2011, is also available.

The Charge

The joyous days of Drop Zone are far, far behind us.

Opening Statement

In this direct-to-video actioner, Wesley Snipes (Blade) stars as a former special ops soldier who becomes the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Facts of the Case

Sometimes bad guys have the worst luck. Like never being able to connect with a gunshot when it counts. Or underestimating the watch their good-guy nemesis is wearing. The bad guys from Unstoppable deep-six themselves by managing to confuse targets, inadvertently dragging Snipes' character, Dean Cage, a highly-trained former special ops agent, into their diabolical schemes. This can't end well for them.

Cage is given a shot of an experimental serum, which makes the victim completely vulnerable to suggestion. In addition, the drug causes profound hallucinations and mental instability, and without administration of the antidote, will kill its target.

With the goofy juice now flowing freely through his veins, Cage is driven to do one thing: find the antidote. But standing in his way are the U.S. government, intent on stopping the black market spread of the drug, said bad guys, and vivid recreations from his cloudy, military past. Cage is trapped between two worlds: reality and his perceived reality. If he's going to survive—or maybe become…unstoppable!!!—he will have to sift through these dueling existences.

The Evidence

Wesley Snipes…yikes! Sans the Blade series (which appears to have had the final nail driven into its coffin with the third movie), Snipes doesn't seem to have the theatrical clout he used to. It appears that he's traveling the well-worn trail that former action icons have blazed before him—Steven Seagal, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Jean-Claude Van Damme—where the destination is Direct-to-Video Land. Unstoppable is Snipes' conduit to this magical realm.

As a film, Unstoppable isn't awful. The production values are high (except for a few really transparent special effects scenes), the atmosphere is dark and effective, and the action scenes are potent. On the other hand, the film suffers from an utter phone-in by its headliner, and the hallucination/reality gimmick is just plain dopey.

When we take on Cage's point of view, the setting shifts between wherever he really is (hallways, office rooms) to his perceived hallucination (prison wards, dank interrogation rooms), and thankfully, everything matches. Hallucinatory doors are in the same place, as are doorknobs, and walls, and fire sprinklers. This is one heck of a drug!

Even goofier is the suggestion aspect of the gimmick. Apparently, the druggee can be told to do anything or even imagine anything, and they'll think it's real. The fear, from the good guys' standpoint, is that terrorists and other malcontents will use the serum to turn anyone into an assassin (didn't I see this before in The Naked Gun?)

Anyway, as Cage tries to outrun his pursuers, they yell up at him "You're on fire!" and POOF! he starts to see flames on his legs. Two questions. One, why are the flames restricted to his legs? And two, how come these stupid idiots don't suggest something useful, like "You're asleep!" or "Your feet are made of concrete!" or "You're a little schoolgirl with a trumpet for a nose and pockets full of happiness and we've got your chinchilla down here and we all want to play a game of Battleship together!" These bad guys deserve each and every misfortune heaped upon them.

On the upside, the action scenes are pretty good, though Snipes' methodical kung fu act grows a little tedious. A slick chase sequence ending in massive truck destruction (and a joke CGI fireball) and the requisite balls-to-the-wall shootout are the highlights of the film, and are pulled off effectively.

The movie pulls off a solid audio and visual transfer all around. A 1.85:1 widescreen transfer is smooth, despite 90% of the flick being shot in the dark. Grain was kept to a minimum, and the pyrotechnics boasted some good, vibrant color (too good in some points, revealing their fakeness). The sound didn't push as hard as I would have liked, but I was impressed with the use of the surround channels. Only a few trailers for extras.

Closing Statement

A cool look and some good action are dragged down by a guffaw-inducing plot and a fair share of moronic moments. I know I came across as a Wesley-hater, but I like the guy a lot. It's just that he's going through the motions in this movie—perhaps he senses where his destiny lies.

The Verdict

The accused is sentenced to hard time in the bargain bin.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 90
Audio: 85
Extras: 50
Acting: 75
Story: 75
Judgment: 75

Perp Profile

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
• English
• French
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Action
• Drama

Distinguishing Marks

• Previews


• IMDb

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