R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Rob Cohen
scr WD Richter
with Josh Lucas, Jessica Biel, Jamie Foxx, Sam Shepard, Richard Roxburgh, Joe Morton, Ian Bliss, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, David Andrews, Jason Lee, Michael Denkha, Rocky Helton
release US 29.Jul.05, UK 5.Aug.05
05/US Columbia 2h01

Best of the best: Lucas, Foxx and Biel

shepard roxburgh morton

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Stealth Set in "the near future", this rip-roaring action movie is great fun if you don't engage your brain. After The Fast and the Furious and XXX, Cohen is becoming an expert at mindless moviemaking; nobody replaces a provocative idea with sniggering subtext like he does.

Gannon, Wade and Purcell (Lucas, Biel and Foxx) are the top Top Guns, Navy pilots assigned to the highest of high-tech fighter planes. Then their bullish commander (Shepard) adds a fourth plane to their tight team, a pilotless stealth fighter called EDI, for Extreme Deep Invader, created by a rock star-like Seattle computer whiz (Roxburgh). But a lightning strike gives EDI a god complex, and now the team has to tame their new partner before it sparks Armageddon.

This sets up the potential to examine artificial intelligence in an entertaining way, while commenting on the US military's "prosecute with precision" mentality. But while Richter's script toys with important themes, Cohen does his best to distract us with sheer movie spectacular--he's like a boy with new toys, increasing the explosions, stunts and effects until the film is a virtual videogame. He doesn't seem to mind that this requires the addition of jarring plot shifts (such as the Thai Tourist Board interlude, seemingly included so he can zoom in on Biel in a bikini) and increasingly ludicrous set pieces, from an astonishing attack on downtown Rangoon (no collateral damage, yeah right) to a horrific-then-forgotten nuclear disaster in Tajikistan to a Team America-style torch-everything rescue in North Korea (which looks like a cheesy planet set from the 1960s Star Trek series).

The acting is solid, although the characters are wafer thin and the casting is more than a little disturbing--with the blond blue-eyed male, babe-a-licious female and cocky black guy all fitting into narrative stereotypes. As does Shepard's increasingly bull-headed warmonger. Fortunately, Cohen saves himself by not taking anything seriously; despite the carnage, this is just a goofy summer blockbuster, and as such it's diverting and extremely enjoyable, with rousing action sequences, superb cinematography and extravagant effects. Laugh and you'll love it. Think at your peril.

cert 12 themes, violence, language, innuendo 26.Jul.05

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2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall