Of all the viable action stars currently kicking ass and not taking names, Wesley Snipes is probably the most enigmatic of the bunch. If not the man himself, then at least the strange progression of his career. (Although Snipes’ personal life is also pretty interesting; didn’t he once buy a patch of land in some podunk town and built himself a bodyguard training camp?) Despite the continued commercial success of the “Blade” films, Snipes has nevertheless appeared in no less than four direct-to-video features (not counting “7 Seconds”, which puts the total at 5). How is this possible, when the man continues to be a viable big screen action hero?
“7 Seconds” plucks Snipes out of Hollywood big-budget films and drops him into Romania (aka the choice location for filmmakers on a budget looking for ridiculous tax incentives) as Jack Tuliver, an ex-Delta Force commando who makes a living masterminding elaborate robberies. Jack’s latest target is an armored car company, but when a second gang shows up to ruin Jack’s getaway, our hero goes on the run with a mysterious briefcase containing something everyone seems to want, while his girlfriend falls into the clutches of the bad guys. Also along for the ride is NATO military cop Kelly Anders (Tamzin Outhwaite), whose car is stolen by Jack as he flees his would-be assassins. With the Romanian cops, Kelly and her military police, and the bad guys all after him, Jack’s got little place to run and even fewer answers.
The first thing you’ll notice about the first 30-40 minutes of “7 Seconds” is that director Simon Fellows (“Blessed”) seems to be imitating the films of Steven Soderbergh. “Out of Sight” gets cribbed by way of Jack and Kelly’s initial meeting, and further followed-up on when Jack keeps calling Kelly back using her cellphone to flirt. Meanwhile, there are more than a few nods toward the “too cool for school” vibe that Soderbergh executes with such effortlessness in his caper films. Curiously, Fellows seems to abandon his cribbing of Soderbergh’s style about halfway through, leaving room for brutal fistfights and a lengthy gun battle in the bad guy’s mansion that goes on for way too long without the cops ever being called to the scene, even in Romania.
The film offers up a couple of twists and turns, but most of them are superfluous, and seems to have been added as an attempt at visual flair. Further nodding to the filmmakers’ needs to be Soderbergh-esque, there are enough uses of flashbacks to convince you “7 Seconds” would be about an hour long if not for the constant flashbacking going on. It wouldn’t be so bad if the flashbacks only highlighted important plot points, but the filmmakers think the audience is so dense that we need to see every single detail, as if we were too dumb to grasp what they were talking about, even if it’s the most insignificant or mundane of “twists”. I kid you not when I say that “7 Seconds” might hold the record for the most flashbacks in any movie ever.
Martin Wheeler’s script does provide plenty of amusing moments by way of running gags throughout the film. One involves Jack’s magical ability to end up on the wrong end of a gun, and the other has Kelly driving around in her smashed up car for the rest of the film. The movie’s best asset is, without a doubt, star Wesley Snipes, who handles the action just as well as the film’s more lighthearted moments. Snipes isn’t in full “Blade” mode here, but his character is very capable — at least when the bad guys aren’t getting the drop on him, which seems to be quite often. Snipes gets to show off his martial arts ability in plenty of scenes, but the gunfights tend to go on for too long, especially the final shootout. Plus, the sound foley is atrocious throughout much of the gunfights.
Of the supporting cast, blonde beauty Tamzin Outhwaite has little to do except background exposition, most of which becomes moot since Jack inevitably learns the same things when various bad guys confess to him. As the captured girlfriend, Georgina Rylance (who seems to be in just about every American movie shot in Romania nowadays) has even less to do than Outhwaite. The best of the lot is the character of Spanky, and even though I don’t understand 80% of the things the guy says, he’s still pretty funny throughout. The filmmakers should have made Spanky the sidekick instead of keeping him taped to a chair through most of the film.
In the end, “7 Seconds” is hindered by its low budget, a slightly muddled script, and uninventive execution by the director. Snipes is good, as he often is in these type of movies, but there are times when even he seems to be performing well below his true potential. My guess is that Snipes knows he’s in a throwaway B-action movie, and after a while simply adjusted accordingly. Having said that, it’s easy to see why “7 Seconds”, despite the presence of a still-hot action star, went straight to video. It simply doesn’t belong on the big screen.
Simon Fellows (director) / Martin Wheeler (screenplay)
CAST: Wesley Snipes …. Jack Tuliver
Tamzin Outhwaite …. Kelly Anders
Georgina Rylance …. Suza
Serge Soric …. Mihael & Mircea
Martin Wheeler …. Sergei