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Stealth (November 14/05)

Stealth is undoubtedly a perfect example of everything that's wrong with contemporary action flicks, although the movie isn't quite as bad as it's been made out to be (the recent xXx sequel, for example, is far more obnoxious). With an emphasis on explosions, outrageous stuntwork, and slick special effects, the film substitutes loud noises and ceaseless eye-candy for anything even resembling a coherent storyline or genuine character development. Director Rob Cohen has infused Stealth with exactly the sort of jittery impatience that we've come to expect from the filmmaker, with the end result a piece of work that'll undoubtedly thrill teenage boys but irritate everyone else. Working from a script by W.D. Richter (who, astoundingly enough, co-wrote John Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China), Cohen inundates the viewer with wall-to-wall action - from aerial dogfights to machine-gun battles to hand-to-hand combat - and it's not long before one starts to view the increasingly sporadic expository sequences as a welcome respite from all the noise. The story revolves around three ace pilots - Ben Gannon (Josh Lucas), Kara Wade (Jessica Biel), and Henry Purcell (Jamie Foxx) - who find themselves forced to contend with the addition of a fourth wingman, a highly advanced robot plane called EDI (Extreme Deep Invader) - with problems ensuing as EDI begins to question his programming and starts randomly blowing things up. There's not a single character within Stealth that doesn't come off as a complete stereotype (eg Foxx's sassy black guy and Sam Shepard's irate commanding officer), something that can be attributed to Cohen's impatience in developing these people beyond their most superficial qualities. The far-from-memorable performances reflect this mentality, as the three leads - who've been quite good elsewhere, particularly Foxx - mechanically (and blandly) stumble their way through the film's insipid and dumbed-down dialogue (do we really need an explanation of what a prime number is?) Additionally, the movie is packed with a number of laughable and thoroughly absurd moments - eg Kara's bizarre running commentary as she parachutes from her plane - ensuring that (at the very least) Stealth is good for a few laughs (however unintentional they may be).

out of

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

Alex Cross (October 28/12)

Based on a book by James Patterson, Alex Cross follows the title detective (Tyler Perry) as he and his partner (Ed Burns' Tommy Kane) attempt to track down and stop a vicious madman known only as Picasso (Matthew Fox). It's clear immediately that Perry, picking up where Morgan Freeman left off, is simply unable to convincingly step into the shoes of Patterson's grizzled yet sympathetic creation, as the actor, though competent, doesn't possess the presence or gravitas that the role clearly demands (ie he's just bland here). Beyond that, however, Alex Cross, for the most part, feels like a substandard thriller that should be premiering on home video - as the narrative has been suffused with elements of a decidedly (and palpably) generic nature (including the yawn-inducing central investigation and the stereotypical portrayal of certain periphery characters). There's little doubt, then, that the film's passable nature is due to Fox's magnificently over-the-top turn as Picasso; rail-thin and stripped entirely of his charismatic demeanor, Fox delivers a jaw-droppingly transformative performance that's consistently engrossing and flat-out hypnotic - to the extent that one can't help but wish that his character were the focus here. The otherwise lifeless atmosphere is especially disappointing given the revenge-heavy bent of the narrative's final stretch, with the climactic battle between Cross and Picasso drained entirely of its energy by director Rob Cohen's reliance on some of the shakiest camerawork ever committed to celluloid. The end result is a disappointingly half-baked endeavor that could (and should) have been so much better, and it's ultimately impossible not to wonder why Fox went to such extreme lengths for such a forgettable movie.

out of

© David Nusair