A decade ago, when I worked for Apple, there was a group of
software designers who regularly went en masse to a select movie genre.
They picked out shows sure to be terrible and then had a great time
laughing in unison at them. I thought of this group as I suffered
through Sylvester Stallone latest action thriller, DAYLIGHT. I lost
count of how many times I laughed out loud at the wrong places.
Characters were dying, and I could not keep from laughing; the
circumstances were so ridiculous.
One could make a cogent argument that action films should be
evaluated mainly on the special effects and the stunts. By that
metric, DAYLIGHT delivers. Not a great special effects movie, but a
perfectly acceptable one. In the best part, a firestorm barbecues
everything in its path. Not quite as impressive as in CHAIN REACTION,
but still pretty awesome. Personally, I found the action sequences in
DAYLIGHT more tedious than exhilarating, but maybe I am too demanding.
DAYLIGHT is set in a gritty New York City, where we see its caste
system. Society is dichotomized into the superrich and the struggling
underclass. On the upper end of the scale, is the founder of an
athletic clothing company. He drives a Hummer and believes himself to
be invincible. At the other end is a struggling playwright, Madelyne
Thompson (Amy Brenneman from CASPER and FEAR). Her freezing cold
apartment has cockroaches on her kitchen counter and rats in her sock
drawer. Go ahead, guess which one of these characters will survive and
which will perish.
In a cliche infested story, we have a convoy of truckers taking
toxic waste through the Holland Tunnel on way to New Jersey to dump it.
Also in the tunnel are a bus load of convicts and cars full of assorted
other inhabitants of The Big Apple.
Three kids with wildly colored hair and conspicuous body jewelry
rob a diamond messenger and steal his car. In my favorite scene in the
show, he sends a threatening fax to his stolen car. Now, there is a
concept -- faxes as car burglar alarm replacements. To evade the
police the driver takes the Holland Tunnel, driving as though on a
Kamikaze mission. So wild-eyed is the driver that, as he hits every
car in the tunnel, I began to wonder if the film was intended as a
parody of bad action movies. The car, of course, takes a flying leap
into the drums of toxic waste, causing the obligatory explosion and
trapping a stratified cross section of the city's citizens.
Near the entrance to the tunnel is limo driver Kit Lauria
(Stallone). Kit used to be the head of New York City's Emergency
Medical Services, but he tried too hard to save some people and failed.
In the ensuing scandal, he was fired. In charge now is a gung-ho new
chief "from California." When his troops do not agree with his tunnel
rescue plan, he barks at them, "You listen to me. The person who says
it can't be done is always interrupted by the person who just did it."
The script by Leslie Bohem (NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5) is full of such
inanities. Soon our California macho man is toast, and Kit comes to
save the day.
They should have a place for you to check your brain in the lobby
of the theater. I lost count of all the nonsensical parts. Consider
just two typical examples.
First, the only way to enter the tunnel is for Kit to go through a
set of twenty foot wide exhaust fans. The fans are computer controlled
and can be stopped only once and for just three minutes. After that,
there is no way to stop them ever again. No computer command and no
way to cut the power. Sure.
Second, the characters are warned about the dangers of hypothermia
since they spend most of their time in the 37 degree water. How many
times do they get cold? Once.
Perhaps the least believable character is the bureaucrat who wants
to take an action that will kill the trapped survivors. Her motivation
is to relieve the traffic congestion the explosion has caused. She
explains, "The tunnel is an artery. The city is bleeding."
The seriousness which director Rob Cohen (DRAGONHEART) attaches to
this farce could be summed up by one of the convicts. While death
seems imminent, Vincent, played by Stallone's son Sage, starts putting
the moves on another woman trapped in the tunnel. He asks, "Listen, if
we don't die in here, I wondered if I could give you a call?"
DAYLIGHT runs too long at 1:55. It is rated PG-13 for numerous
scenes of death and destruction. If your kids can not handle heavy
violence, do not take them to this show. My guess is that this means
the film is not for anyone under at least ten. I enjoyed laughing at
the ludicrousness of the picture, but I would not suggest that anyone
else have to sit through this preposterous story. I give the movie *
1/2 only for the action sequences.
Copyright © 1996 Steve Rhodes