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Power Play (December 18/04)

Given that Power Play is typical straight-to-video action fare, it's difficult not to wonder why actual actors such as Dylan Walsh and Alison Eastwood agreed to star. One expects to see folks like Ice-T and Kelly Rutherford populating a movie like this, though veteran villain Tobin Bell does pop up playing (what else?) the villain.

The impossibly convoluted storyline has something to do with a monolithic energy corporation that may or may not have something to do with a series of earthquakes that's been plaguing Southern California. Walsh stars as Matt Nash, an incompetent investigative reporter who successfully convinces his editor to give him the story - even though his last assignment ended disastrously after he brought a ridiculously large camera to an undercover drug bust. Matt eventually hooks up with an employee of said energy company named Gabriella (Eastwood), though her job seems to consist entirely of yelling out the orders of her high-ranking boss. Gabriella's initial skepticism is soon quashed after she receives some information from a recently blown-up whistle-blower, and the two begin the process of shutting down the company.

Power Play is packed with an absurd amount of action movie clichés, to the point where the film occasionally feels like it's operating on the level of parody. This is particularly true of a car chase between Matt and various bad guys, which somehow includes every single car chase staple ever committed to film (ie the hero drives through a section of glass that just happens to be in the middle of the road). But more than that, the film's heavy emphasis on action doesn't really fit with the plot; it seems fairly obvious that director Joseph Zito sees the storyline as a vehicle for fist-fights, gun battles, etc.

While Eastwood looks completely embarrassed to be here, Walsh actually throws himself into the part with an unexpected amount of verve - seemingly channeling Steve Guttenberg's off-kilter persona. And then there's Bell as the heavy, stepping into the shoes of a sinister character for the umpteenth time in his career. Not surprisingly, the actor is very effective in the role; it's highly unlikely Bell will ever be able to play just a regular guy, though it would admittedly be quite a kick to see him in a romantic comedy.

Power Play is actually pretty entertaining, as far as films of this ilk go - provided you're not expecting anything more than an incredibly silly, over-the-top throwback to the action flicks of the '80s.

out of

About the DVD: First Look Home Entertainment presents Power Play with a letterboxed transfer, along with the film's trailer and a bonus trailer for Home Front.
© David Nusair