Like most of Wesley Snipes’ Shot-in-Romania action movies, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with “The Detonator”. Unfortunately there’s also nothing particular great about it, either. It’s a middling effort from Snipes, former star of Grade-A Hollywood pictures like the “Blade” series, being neither good enough to grab anyone’s attention, nor awful enough to be ridiculed endlessly in reviews such as this. In short, it’s what Snipes’ career has come to be, the first hint of ruin being “Blade: Trinity”, where the starring part (by Snipes) was reduced to a lengthy cameo in favor of the studio whoring out Jessica Biel and Ryan Reynolds’ perfectly sculpted abs in hopes of a spin-off series.
Directed by former Hong Kong man Po-Chih Leong, “The Detonator” stars Snipes as a Homeland Security agent who finds himself in Romania negotiating an arms deal with Romanian gangsters. (In a bit of comedy, Snipes’ character is pretending to be gay, although why is never explained, probably because it just didn’t make any sense.) The deal goes bad (as they always do in these movies) and Snipes, after killing a bunch of people, is arrested. Luckily for our secret agent, the local CIA branch, and in particular former buddy Michael Shepard (William Hope) has a job for him — escort beaudacious witness Nadia Cominski (Silvia Colloca) back to New York for the murder of her husband. Unfortunately for the bodyguard and the guarded, a Romanian gangster wants Nadia, and the CIA is infested with traitors (as they always are in these movies).
“The Detonator” was written by Martin Wheeler, who last scripted another Snipes Romanian actionfest called “7 Seconds”, and who will be once again teaming up with the Ponytail One in 2007’s “Enemy of the Unseen”. Yes, I realize that the title makes no sense, but then again, since when has the title of a Steven Seagal movie made sense, ever? But I digress. Wheeler pens “The Detonator” the same way he penned “7 Seconds” and the Seagal starrer “Black Dawn” — full of CIA backstabbings, starring a male hero and his pretty female partner, a lot of running and chasing, random shootings, controlled local explosions, and generic car chases. Wheeler clearly writes his movies to conform to the location and resources at hand, and in that respect he’s doing exactly what producer Andrew Stevens demands of him.
And because action in Romania is cheap to do, there is of course a lot of action in “The Detonator”, albeit all of them of the “low-level” variety. Wesley Snipes, as his characters in these movies are wont to do, dispense the bad guys in a series of unspectacular action sequences. None of it will make you go “Wow”, as that would require originality and a bigger budget than what they had to work with here. Director Po-Chih Leong does a fairly good job of orchestrating the mindless explosions and gunfights, but then again, this is by-the-numbers stuff, so it would take a Herculean effort to screw things up.
Curiously, there are a number of scenes where the appearance of Silvia Colloca as witness Nadia are accompanied by elaborate Celtic music. I’m not entirely sure what Leong and company were going for here, as although she’s an attractive woman, Nadia doesn’t seem to merit such grandiose entrances — more than once, in fact. Silvia Colloca, graduating from a bit part in “Van Helsing”, does a competent enough job, especially working across Snipes, who has done so many of these movies, with such similar storylines, that he probably gets bored with the project by the halfway point, and can you really blame him? The guy must get d’jÃ vu constantly on the movie set.
It’s hard to tell the difference between a Wesley Snipes and a Steven Seagal movie nowadays, especially since they’re directed, written, and produced by the same group of men. I’m willing to bet producer Andrew Stevens picks his stars by whoever is available to run over to Romania to shoot the script that particular week. Of course it probably helps that Snipes and Seagal don’t seem particularly bothered by the dwindling qualities of their movies, or seem to notice that their movies keep either being set in, or shot in, Romania . Whatever happened to the good ol days when you could just drive up north and shoot all your movies in Canada ? It’s kind of hard to pretend the back alleys of Bucharest is New York, which easily explains why all of Snipes and Seagal’s movies now involves Eastern European bad guys and globe-trotting CIA (or in Seagal’s case, ex-CIA) agents.
Without belaboring the point, “The Detonator” is an average effort, with only the supporting actors giving the project what can be called their all. Silvia Colloca has the makings of a talented leading lady, and William Hope is quite good as the CIA spook trying to lend Wesley Snipes a hand. Alas, “The Detonator” just doesn’t have it in itself to be anything but okay. Like a Seagal movie, you’re just happy if the leading man can still convince you he can beat people up without having a stroke midway through. Snipes can still do that, so that’s an extra .5 brownie points right there, giving “The Detonator” a whopping total of 2.5.
Hey, it could be worst. Lots.
Po-Chih Leong (director) / Martin Wheeler (screenplay)
CAST: Wesley Snipes …. Sonni Griffith
Silvia Colloca …. Nadia Cominski
Warren Derosa …. Mitchel
Florian Ghimpu …. Nita
William Hope …. Michael Shepard
Matthew Leitch …. Dimitri