Thursday, June 2, 2011

Give it one more chance... Chill Factor (1999)

Yeah, that's right I'm making a post about Chill Factor as my second posting. What are you going do about it? Wait, wait don't go. Seriously, Chill Factor deserves another chance. 
Okay, the plot is this. Skeet Ulrich plays Tim Mason, this random guy who incongruously happens to be friends with a scientist Dr Long (David Paymer). A few years back Dr Long made a dangerous new biological bomb nicknamed Elvis that accidentally killed a bunch of soldiers. Skip to present day and a sadistic army officer played by Peter Firth, who took the blame for the soldiers' death, comes back and kills Long. Before he dies Long gives Mason a sample of Elvis and tells him he needs to take it to a military base. But wait, they're two catches – firstly Firth is on his tail every step of the way and secondly he's got to keep the sample under 50°. Damn! Poor old Cuba Gooding jr plays an ice cream man called Arlo who delivering some tasty ice cream to the store where Long's been shot so Mason teams up with him to help him get Elvis to the military base.

They don't really do good old fashion action-comedies like this anymore. It seems to have been a genre that got exhausted a bit in the late 80s. Ulrich and Gooding make a good partnership and they have a good rapport even if Gooding is at times way too screechy. Seriously, there's fun obnoxious and obnoxious obnoxious and Gooding strays dangerously close to the latter. Ulrich makes for a good lead though. I think he's a great actor ever since I saw Scream, he just doesn't get the leading parts (except Jericho which I can't be bothered to bring myself to watch).

The writers of the film seems to have watched Speed and The Rock back-to-back before they wrote this because the similarities are pretty big. In Speed the bus can't go under 50mph and in Chill Factor the bomb can't be in temperate over 50°. In The Rock a disgruntled former military man wants to unleash bomb and in Chill Factor a disgruntled former military man wants to unleash bomb. 
Man, watching this reminds me, what the hell happened to Cuba Gooding jr? The guy wins an Oscar for Jerry Maguire (yeah, it was a pretty good performance) and then manages to seemingly pick ever crap script floating around Hollywood. By the laws of chance this guy should have picked another decent script by now, even if it was by accident. At the moment, he seems to be trying to do a bit of a direct-to-dvd action movie career, poor guy.
Finally just wanted to say I love how graphically the bad guy dies at the end. Not like I'm some kind of gore hounnd – his face melts off Raiders-style – but it's just such a jarring use of grotesque horror in an otherwise routine action movie. This is what I love about bad movies, they make mistakes but the mistakes are fun because it's what separates them from good movies.

Actually I think “bad” isn't the right word, it's more misplaced. Another misplaced but fun element is Peter Firth. The guy's a good actor but he doesn't really fit the film. I guess they thought they'd get a brit to be the bad guy to emulate Die Hard with Alan Rickman.
I can see why this bombed at the cinema, it's too close to the plot of Speed and Ulrich and Gooding aren't giant actor names like Willis or Arnie but honestly if it's on TV on a weeknight it's worth catching. It's a little slow in parts but it's a modest action thriller and there's enough set pieces to keep your interest. Don't go in expecting something as kinetic as Speed and I think you'll be happy.

File this next to Hard Rain – another action movie that's fun but not endlessly rewatchable.

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