Blast (September 26/05)
If there's anyone that can pull of a Die Hard ripoff, it's Steven E. de Souza - the guy who wrote Die Hard (and its sequel). With Blast, he moves the action to an offshore oil rig, while emphasizing many of the elements that one associates with that 1988 Bruce Willis hit (ie a reluctant hero, a smug, European villain, etc). But despite the effectiveness of de Souza's script, Blast just never comes off as anything other than a better-than-average straight-to-video action flick - due primarily to director Anthony Hickox's questionable sense of style and the oddball casting of Eddie Griffin as the film's hero.
Griffin plays Lamont Dixon, a firefighter-turned-tugboat-captain who is forced to spring into action when his rig is taken over by a ruthless eco-terrorist named Michael Kittredge (Vinnie Jones). Fortunately for Dixon, a hard-nosed FBI agent (played by Vivica A. Fox) is diligently working to resolve the situation - though it's clear almost immediately that there's not a whole lot she can do. Dixon also receives help from a scrappy computer nerd named Jamal (Breckin Meyer), while Kittredge dispatches several goons to prevent Dixon from foiling his diabolical plans.
It's a perfect set-up for the sort of action movie that was prevalent in the '80s and early '90s, and de Souza does a nice job of establishing the situation and characters. The screenwriter also imbues Blast with sporadic instances of his admittedly off-the-wall sense of humor (this is the same man, after all, who came up with that infamous "let off some steam, Bennett" line from Commando), allowing Meyer to actually make good use of his smarmy persona.
But as good as de Souza's script is, it's no match for Hickox's overreaching and thoroughly bewildering directorial choices. Hickox's reliance on contemporary action cliches (ie slow-motion, rapid zooms, etc) becomes tiresome almost immediately, and effectively transforms the majority of the film's fight sequences into blurry, incoherent episodes. As for Griffin, he's not quite as terrible as some of his previous work might indicate, but he's not even remotely at the same level of action heroes such as Willis, Stallone, and Schwarzenegger.
As a result, one can't help but imagine just how effective Blast would've been with a more convincing leading man and a better director. Still, as it is, the film is a refreshing throwback to the way action should be (and it doesn't hurt that Jones is exceedingly convincing as a sinister, needlessly brutal thug).