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Case Number 04498

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Windfall

DEJ // 2001 // 100 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // May 27th, 2004

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All Rise...

The only casino fall Judge David Johnson has experienced is being knocked off a stool by an 80-year-old woman for trying to steal her slot machine.

The Charge

Their last heist is about to be blown away.

Opening Statement

Another bastard offspring of the disaster and heist genres, Windfall offers up the superstar pairing fans have waited never for: Casper van Dien and Robert Englund.

Facts of the Case

Ace and Scratch are two Golden Retrievers who play rugby. No, that's not right. Ace and Scratch are two out-of-work porn stars looking for love. Nope, that's wrong too. Ace and Scratch are two professional thieves searching for the opportunity to bag "the big score." That's the one.

The movie opens at the Grand Royale Casino in Florida. Here we find our two monosyllabic anti-heroes in the middle of a million-dollar theft. Things go awry, however, when Ace (Van Dien, Sleepy Hollow) walks into the casino dressed in black, carrying a big-ass bag full of money.

The two thieves take off, pursued by the menacing head of security Bill Trask (Gregg Henry, The Patriot.) A fifteen-minute chase scene follows, as the robbers lead Trask and the cops through a demolition derby of debris and flying, flipping vehicles. Ace and Scratch (Englund, A Nightmare on Elm Street) get in a horrific crash that would probably mutilate any normal human being not named Ace or Scratch but emerge unscathed and sprint off to steal a motorcycle.

Another chase scene unfolds, a few more cop cars get wasted, maybe a bystander or two bites it, and just when it seems the two criminals are about to elude capture, a military transport stalls, inexplicably, in the middle of the highway. Another horrific accident and giant pyrotechnics display later, Ace and Scratch are arrested…

…until they are actually freed and hired at the Grand Royale Casino as security workers (?!) The owner of the casino suspects that Trask is pocketing some of the profits, so his bright idea is to hire some outsiders he can trust. Who embodies trust more than two guys who robbed you then committed vehicular manslaughter? I'm not making this stuff up.

Peripheral to these goings-on, two meteorologists discover that the storm of the century, Hurricane Brenda, is fast approaching the U.S. mainland. Essentially, these two scientists are exposition tools, serving no purpose other than to stare at a computer monitor while a faux-hurricane icon moves across the screen and talk about how windy it's going to get.

As the evacuation begins, Trask mobilizes his security crew to clean out the casino, a $10 million haul. Ace and Scratch show up in time to do battle with Trask and his goons, and as Hurricane Brenda imposes her computer-generated catastrophe on the mainland, Casper van Dien imposes his stylish coiffure on the bad guys.

The Evidence

Ol' Casper has come into his own as THE go-to guy for direct-to-video features. Whether he's battling a computer-generated python or a computer-generated hurricane, CVD has become one of the most prolific non-big-screen actors of our time (about 1:24, by my watch.)

Then you have Robert Englund, another B-list celeb. Add the two together, and throw in Gregg Henry a "That guy looks familiar" actor and you have a solid starting line-up of recognizable faces to anchor your movie.

What separates this film from most other direct-to-video-action-filth is the action, or rather the quantity of action. The filmmakers overloaded the thing with action set-pieces. There are three in the movie, but each is so long, the on-screen mayhem commands more time than anything else. Let me break it down:

Action Set-Piece One

The opener. Before any characters are introduced, Ace and Scratch are in the middle of a long, long chase sequence. Kudos to the filmmakers for crashing real cars, a welcome sight in these days of CGI-everything. Of note are the thieves' incredible resilience to car accidents and the utter failure of an escape plan that got them into the chase to begin with.

Action Set-Piece Two

Ace and his love interest, Amber, are having a drink in an outdoor café, when Ace is suddenly spooked by the sight of two crazy guys on motorcycles holding guns. Not content with more discreet assassination methods, the hitmen ride in on their bikes, guns blazing through the café, picking off pedestrians. Despite their conveyances, they can't seem to catch up to Ace and Amber who are fleeing on foot. The chase then transfers to speedboats. The attackers display zero accuracy when firing thousands of rounds of bullets and grenades, but hey it makes for good water explosions.

Action Set-Piece Three

The finale commandeers pretty much the final third of the movie. Hurricane Brenda unleashes her fury on the casino, the results of which include a bad guy getting punched in the face with a big, metal sign. Eventually, Ace takes the fight outside into the maelstrom, where, impressively, he's able to hold his ground through the violent wind, though a scene previous shows a station wagon flipped and rolled over as if it were made of Styrofoam.

Honestly, I can't really explain why the hurricane is included. It serves no real practical purpose except to offer a venue of rain and wind during the last scene. Oh, and it gives Mr. and Mrs. Exposition something to talk about.

Beyond the extensive action scenes, there really isn't anything else to the movie. Oh wait, I almost forgot. As Ace and Scratch leave the hotel to catch Trask, Ace tells Amber and the casino boss to stay in the vault, which he'll lock to "keep them safe." Huh? Well, he better make it back, unless cannibalization is a sunnier alternative to being rained on.

The movie comes in full-screen, which is entirely inappropriate. The transfer is decent enough, though it never ever looks theatrical. It's obvious you're watching a B-movie. The stereo mix is relatively effective, though I was surprised at how little my subwoofer had to do, especially during the storm scenes. No extras, save the trailer.

Closing Statement

The flick isn't gut wrenching. It's not good either. It does, however, fill its 100 minutes with explosions and chases and fake looking storm clouds. Is this a good thing?

The Verdict

A heist/hurricane movie? Sorry to say, but it kinda blows. (Oh, stop, you love it!)

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Scales of Justice

Video: 80
Audio: 80
Extras: 60
Acting: 75
Story: 75
Judgment: 74

Perp Profile

Studio: DEJ
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Rated R
Genres:
• Action
• Crime
• Disaster
• Thriller

Distinguishing Marks

• Trailer

Accomplices

• IMDb








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