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Robert Kurtzman might be one hell of a special effects wizard, but his abilities as a motion picture director are, shall we say, head-scratchingly abysmal. It’s hard to believe that a guy who has as much experience in the field as Kurtzman would deliver a steady stream of unwatchable cinematic bilge on a consistent basis. And while I do own a copy of his magnificently trashy 1995 debut “The Demolitionist” on VHS, it’s not the sort of film I would readily recommend to those in search of quality and coherence. Does it make me an unreasonable hypocrite that I watch the movie at least once a year? Probably. Don’t you dare judge me.
For his latest effort, Kurtzman has boldly ventured into the direct-to-video action genre, a market that’s already saturated with an endless supply of stale, lifeless endeavors populated with a wide variety of has-beens and never-weres. “Deadly Impact” features two reasonably well-respected actors — Sean Patrick Flanery and Joe Pantoliano, specifically — in a movie that’s well below their usual standards. Well, let me rephrase that statement. Pantoliano is definitely slumming it, but I’m not so sure about Flannery. His surprisingly robust resume hasn’t had a unstained entry in quite some time. Remember “Kaw” and “Savage Planet”? He hopes you don’t, either.
Flanery stars as Tom Armstrong, a sensitive yet no-nonsense cop who is hot on the proverbial trail of notorious serial bomber David Kaplow (Pantoliano). Just when Tom thinks he’s figuratively wrapped the shackles of the law around his adversary’s scrawny neck, the bottom drops out. Instead of making a bust, Tom stumbles blindly into a deadly trap, one that involves his wife, his best friend, and a very elaborate network of explosives. In order to save his squad, Tom must defuse the bomb by shooting his wife in the chest. After careful consideration, he reluctantly makes his decision.
As most widowers do after planting a bullet in their spouse’s attractive chest, Tom retreats to the cozy confines of a Mexican bar, where he spends his days and nights drinking his troubles away. However, our hero’s alcoholic bliss is soon disrupted by the appearance of a saucy FBI agent by the name of Isabel Ordonez (Carmen Serano), who informs the wayward warrior that his arch-enemy has resurfaced with a scheme to detonate several bombs within the coming months. In short, the FBI needs him to give up the bottle and assist them with the case before more lives are lost. Visibly shaken yet unmoved by her pitch, Tom shrugs off her request and retreats to the booze. Of course, he soon changes his mind, much to Kaplow’s long-winded dismay.
Although Kurtzman has burned me several times in the past — I’m looking at you, “Buried Alive” — “Deadly Impact” marks a brand new low for the much-maligned director. His bizarre use of angles, not to mention his frequent use of the dreaded “shaky cam”, makes the picture look amateurish and excruciatingly cheap. Additionally, his ability to craft a kinetic action sequence is second to just about everyone currently active in the business. Of course, screenwriter Alexander Vesha’s hopelessly dull script isn’t anything to hang your hopes on, either. Who knew combining the weaker elements of Stephen Hopkins’ “Blown Away” and Jan de Bont’s “Speed” could be so lifeless? Now you know.
Nowadays, you kind of expect people like Sean Patrick Flanery to show up in direct-to-video titles like this. I know this sounds cruel and unusual, but it’s true. However, how Kurtzman managed to rope Joe Pantoliano into this mess is anybody’s guess. The guy was in “Bound”, for crying out loud! Why would he lower himself to such bargain basement standards for “Deadly Impact”? Blackmail? Extortion? A favor long forgotten? Whatever the case may be, his performance, along with those belonging to Flanery and Serano, are particularly dreadful. It’s pretty bad when you’re outclassed by the guy portraying Club Floor Security. Seriously. It’s almost embarrassing.
“Deadly Impact” is an almost painful experience to behold, even when compared to the stuff Steven Seagal and Val Kilmer are pumping out these days. After the film’s mildly intriguing opening number, the production promptly loses its cinematic footing and never recovers. Fans of Sean Patrick Flanery won’t have anything to complain about, as the guy has been wallowing in these seedy trenches for several years now. Followers of Pantoliano, meanwhile, will be left wondering why, exactly, their beloved idol has decided to waste his time in mindless drek such as this. Not surprisingly, I’ll be avoiding anything directed by Mr. Kurtzman in the future. I strongly suggest you do the same.
Robert Kurtzman (director) / Alexander Vesha (screenplay)
CAST: Sean Patrick Flanery … Tom Armstrong
Joe Pantoliano … David Kaplow
Carmen Serano … Isabel Ordonez
Amanda Wyss … Julie Mulligan
Greg Serano … Ryan Alba