t's true, kids, you too can make a movie for pennies! All
you have to do is buy stock footages of places exploding and then shove them
into your movie. Some clever editing, some foresight to script events around
your stock explosions, and bam! Your very own movie! Or at least that's the
lesson of "Detonator", yet another entry into the ever-growing pile of
Dumb Action Movies that have managed to stave off extinction courtesy of video
shelves around the country (as well as multiplexes in unsuspecting foreign
Having sufficiently sampled "Detonator" (re:
surviving its 90 minutes (that's exactly 90 minutes, the requisite
running length for direct-to-video land)), I can safely say that, No, you're not
mistaken -- the dialogue in "Detonator" really are that cliché-ridden.
And Yes, you're also right, that scene where Elizabeth Berkley, playing a FBI
agent, delivers instructions to her underlings (who all seems to be at least 20
years older than her for some reason) really was filled with some unseemly (not
to mention unnecessary) vulgarity. You would think the FBI would hire people
less prone to sudden bursts of cursing. And Yes, the verbal clichés do continue
to fly thick and fast, right alongside the exploding stock footages.
Randall Batinkoff stars as Stoddard, an ex-FBI agent busted
down to postal inspector after he does one of those "loose
cannon"-type things all movie loose cannons are wont to do, such as decking
his superior (played gleefully by Stan Shaw as a political glory hound).
Elizabeth Berkley gets top billing (by virtue of her infamous name) as FBI agent
Dreyer, who has a history with Beau, but lacks Beau's loose cannon spunk. After
a domestic terrorist starts setting off bombs and killing a lot of people around
Los Angeles, Stoddard and Dreyer reluctantly team up to investigate. And oh
yeah, they keep talking about what a scumbag Stan Shaw's character is.
While reviewing the South Korean movie "Tube"
a few weeks back, the subject of Dumb Action Movies came up. DAMs originated in
Hollywood with their slew of mindless summer fare, but the genre has since
trickled down to the massive direct-to-video field, where it seems to have found
the perfect home. Without a lot of resources at their disposal, DTV filmmakers
have had to embrace all the things that make DAMs, well, DAMs. Many DTV films
are action-oriented and convoluted in plot, usually involving some unfathomably
difficult scenario that the filmmakers must know they have neither the
resources nor talent to pull off. And yet they do it anyway. Is it courage, or
just stupidity? You decide.
The only actor who survives "Detonator" is
Randall Batinkoff, who despite getting nearly blown up by (probably yet another)
stock footage explosion, is obviously not a bad actor. He has an easy charisma
and sells his scenes with flair, even if writer Herschel Wahlkoch has him
spitting out some truly clichéd lines you could see coming a mile away.
Unfortunately Elizabeth Berkley doesn't convince as an FBI agent. Of course the
fact that her character walks through the movie with her chest pressed in
people's faces and the top buttons of her shirt undone don't exactly add to the
believability factor. Later in the movie, she shows up in a tight shirt that
bares her midriff, leading me to this conclusion: Gee, the FBI sure has relaxed
their dress code!
If you were to take out all the stock footages of various
things and places blowing up, "Detonator" probably wouldn't meet the
all-important 90-minute threshold that all DTV films depend on for their
continued survival. Which brings me to this point: picking out all the obvious
stock footages was quite entertaining, not to mention keeping me involved
throughout the film. If I had to absolutely put money on it, I would guess that
the movie's entire third act, which takes place in a supposedly explosives-laden
hockey stadium, consists of scenes taken from the Jean-Claude van Damme actioner
"Sudden Death". Don't call me on it, but that's the movie I would put
money on if I had to bet where director Jonathan Freedman culled at least half
of the third act's running time from.
All of the above doesn't mean "Detonator" is a
royal turkey. The film moves well, is rarely boring, and even the pot-smoking
surfer "dude" who works in Stoddard's office was strangely amusing.
And sure, the FBI's "mainframe computer" seems to have the security
measures of a microwave, but at least leading man Randall Batinkoff is an
entertaining chap. If he could avoid dreck like "Detonator" from now
on, he'll probably have a decent career ahead of him. Just steer away from Dumb
Action Movies, Randall. That, and stock explosions.