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Non-Review Review: Drop Zone

I’m going to level with you up front. I was born in the late eighties, so – in ways – I’m a child of the nineties. I grew up with cheesy action movies, and I have a certain fondness for that sort of outrageously cheesy nineties action thrillers. Hell, I’ll confess to being a huge fan of Demolition Man, for cryin’ out loud. So, in the interest of full and frank disclosure, you should know that I probably have some form of bias in favour of Drop Zone before you read this review. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s a great film – I’d struggle to even describe it as “good”– but, if you know what you’re going in for, it can at least be entertaining.

Oh, chute!

The movie itself has a relatively clever premise, at least for a film like this. The plot basically follows Gary Busey and his crack team of evil skydivers as they parachute down into government buildings, steal evidence and important computer files, and escape through incredibly stylish means. It’s hokey and more than a little implausible, but it’s certainly a relatively interesting idea and a solid example of the “use an extreme sport in a crime thriller” subgenre that emerged in the early nineties (see Point Break as a further example).

Of course, this leaves all manner of awkward plot holes. In order to keep up the routine, Busey’s method of operation needs to remain relatively covert, so they do their best to cover up their involvement. I know Hollywood law enforcement is highly inept, but it strains logic to believe that nobody notices (a.) the team skydiving into the buildings, and (b.) the team skydiving back out of the buildings. A handful of evidence left in a small locker room is enough to construct an alternative story, and the police swallow it up – despite the fact that there would be no photo or video evidence to back it up at all. It’s a fairly gaping logical flaw with this whole thing, and you reckon the movie might have done better to ignore it rather than attempt to explain it.

The sky's the limit...

There are numerous other flaws spotte dthroughout the film, which give the impression that nobody was realy thinking too much about the film in question. While I could arguably stomach that possibility, there’s a more damning one that this leads to: quite simply, nobody cared. That’s unforgivable. There’s a sequence in an empty bathroom where our lead kicks a goon through a bathroom stall door, breaking it, ignoring the facts that the stall (a.) opens inwards, and (b.) could not have been locked as there was nobody in there. I know breaking a door is more dramatic than opening it with the force of someone else’s body, but it’s just one little example. Later on, a bad guy opens fire on a good guy separate by a pane of glass, but apparently misses so widely she doesn’t even break the pane.

It’s strange that these little instances (which add up over the course of the film) should bother me more than the hackneyed writing, which literally uses ever cliché in the book. Our hero is a cop suspended from duty following the death of his partner, who is also his brother. Yep, that’s right, this time it’s personal. “I had him and I… I couldn’t hold him,” our hero confesses shamefully. “I couldn’t hold him.” Later on, the movie makes it even more personalby having the bad guys sabotage the chute that ends up being used by the most adorable little character in the film. Those dastards.

he really lets his brother down...

Of course, our hero is without back-up, because despite the fact he’s a veteran law enforcement officer, everyone thinks that he didn’t actually see what really went down, and would rather believe a rather convenient chunk of some guy’s finger. “What are you, saying Nessip?” they taunt him. “A jail break at 78,000 feet?” However, it’s up to that  lone cop to avenger his brother/partner on his own. Old school style. Being entirely honest, it’s no surprise that this film was originally written as a Steven Seagal vehicle.

Snipes seems singularly unsuited to the role. The problem is that the actor seems aware he’s trapped inside a cheesy action film, and acts with his volume turned up to eleven, chomping down on the rather lovely scenery like it’s an “all you can eat” buffet. Witness his reaction to his first skydiving trip, where Snipes plays the character like an eleven year old kid who just got the toy he wanted for Christmas, or the final sequence where one last bad guy looks to be getting away, while Snipes is trapped on a gurney. “Leahy, don’t make me roll after you!”

Apparently Seagal dropped out...

In contrast, Gary Busey is practically subtle. I have a soft spot for Busey, especially playing sinister villains like he does here. Sure, his renegade DEA agent isn’t exactly a complex or interesting character, but Busey takes a weird glee in bringing outright sociopaths to life, and I have no problem believing the character is downright insane enough to attempt everything that happens in the film. Of course, in real life, things would probably turn out rather different, but that’s why we suspend our disbelief. He’s playing a walking stereotype, but Busey looks to be enjoying himself.

The movie features, understandably, quite a great deal of skydiving scenes. Most are executed rather wonderfully, with genuine technical skill on display. In fact, it’s only during the obligatory close-ups with the actors (rather than their stunt doubles) that we notice the incredibly awkward green screen work. It’s a shame, because I don’t really need to see the actors up close to admire the stunts. However, other than that, it’s impressive.

Jump in...

Hans Zimmer’s score is cheesy and overblown, but I like it. In fact, I think I love it, because it’s the type of honest-to-goodness excess that I fell in love with. It’s almost as if Zimmer doesn’t trust the actors to let the audience know how they should feel. I do adore that opening bit, with the wailing guitar and camera swoop that lets the viewer know that they are most definitely watching a nineties action movie. I’m kinda sad that we don’t really open movies that way anymore, but time marches on.

Drop Zone is not a good film. It’s okay, if you’re a fan of empty nineties action movies, but even then there are better choices out there.

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