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Slipstream (November 5/05)

There's a scene midway through Slipstream in which the central villain (played by a sneering Vinnie Jones) has attached a soon-to-be-detonated bomb to a hapless bus driver, leaving the FBI agent on the scene with mere seconds to disarm it. Said bus driver, after thrashing about needlessly, finally pushes the agent aside and runs hysterically from the bus - all the while screaming, "I don't want to die!" Moments later, he explodes (obviously).

It's that sort of jaw-dropping incompetence that quickly sinks Slipstream, a sci-fi film with a decent premise but little else. Sean Astin stars as Stuart Conway, a brilliant physicist who has invented a miniature time machine that is capable of sending the user ten minutes into the past. After experimenting with it for the first time at a local bank, Stuart finds himself caught up in a bank robbery overseen by the evil Winston Briggs (Jones). A generic thriller ensues, complete with a car chase, a hostage situation, and an airline hijacking.

Director David van Eyssen reveals himself to be a thoroughly inept filmmaker, primarily through his almost non-stop use of various cinematic tricks (about 40% of the movie transpires in slow-motion). As a result, the film can't help but come off as amateurish - a vibe that's compounded by the seriously underwhelming production values and almost uniformly terrible performances (Astin's not bad, though he's been much, much better). That Slipstream was shot on the cheap in South Africa comes as no surprise whatsoever, given the laughable "American" accents on some of these people (the inclusion of a bus with right-hand drive certainly doesn't help).

It's actually too bad, as Slipstream actually starts out with some promise. Featuring surprisingly complex narration from Astin's character - in which he talks about things like "string theory" and the meaning of time itself - the film's opening 15-minutes is in no way indicative of the silliness that is to follow, and there's no escaping the sensation that two separate screenplays were crudely mashed together to form one barely-coherent piece of work. The astoundingly illogical and inconsistent behavior among the characters only adds to this feeling, as these people do and say things that aren't even remotely plausible (ie during the opening robbery, one of Briggs' henchmen stands immobile while his compatriots are being shot - despite the fact that he's holding an enormous machine gun).

I would be remiss if I didn't mention yet another example of Slipstream's abject stupidity, which comes during the absurd and outlandish plane hijacking towards the end of the picture. Conway has been partnered with FBI agent Sarah Tanner (Ivana Milicevic, a model-turned-actress who isn't even accidentally convincing in the role), and after informing her that the machine is broken and he can't fix it, Tanner asks, "you can't or you won't?" Given that they're about to crash into the side of a mountain, this line makes about as much sense as the rest of Slipstream (which is to say it's baffling, irritating, and even a little infuriating).

out of

About the DVD: Maple Pictures presents Slipstream with a letterboxed transfer, though bonus features are limited to promos for other Maple productions (War of the Planets, Earthsea, The Dead Zone: Season Three, and Lord of War).
© David Nusair