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Chain of Command (August 6/00)

As far as Die Hard rip-offs go, Chain of Command ain't half bad.

Starring Patrick Muldoon of all people in the Bruce Willis role, the movie casts him as a secret service agent who literally has to save the world. Roy Scheider is the President who's abducted on a cruise ship, and Muldoon's the only agent left alive by the terrorists. He skulks around corners, killing baddies while spouting clever witticisms. Surprisingly enough, there's more to the story than just that. Late in the film, there are several surprises I hadn't anticipated.

As the hero, Patrick Muldoon is surprisingly effective. His voice, which is a couple of octaves too high, is an obstacle one wouldn't have thought he'd be able to overcome. But he's up to the challenge of playing an archetypal tough guy, down to the take-no-prisoners approach and inventive methods of dispatching bad guys. Scheider, as the Prez, is good as well, but damn if he's had one too many face lifts. His mouth is perpetually open, as though the multitude of procedures have left him with an inability to close his jaw.

The biggest problem with the film, though, is the first 45 minutes. It's just a lot of talking and confusing talking at that. There's a lot of mention of policy and interference and other political buzzwords that really didn't seem to add anything to the movie. I suppose the director wanted the action sequences to be as tight as possible so he was forced to delay the violence as much as possible. But when it starts, it doesn't stop.

Kudos, also, to the production for casting a Latina woman as the Vice President. Maria Conchita Alonso is excellent in this role, seemingly unprepared for the tough decisions thrust upon her. The very concept of a woman Vice President, let alone a hispanic one, is intriguing and I appreciated the film's efforts to stir things up.

Of course, in a movie like this, the most important element is the bad guy. And unfortunately, the bad guy in this one isn't very convincing. As played by Philip Tan, he comes off as whiny and petulant, two qualities a villain should definitely not possess. But nevertheless, Chain of Command contains enough effective action sequences and unexpected surprises to distinguish itself from all the movies of this genre that are perpetually being released.

out of