Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Review - Scorcher (2002 - Dir. James Seale)

Think back to the sort of straight-to-DVD films that Channel 5 used to show in an evening: Scorcher is a prime example.

You might think that this is a criticism. Films of this ilk invariably have good intentions but are hampered by low budgets, poor quality scripts and Amiga level CGI effects. This is very true of Scorcher. Even so, it's fun and never dull. 

Ryan Beckett (Mark Dacascos) is a Colonel tasked with saving the world from becoming hotter than the extreme temperature that hot drinks are served at in football grounds around the country. Accompanying him on this merry little jape is scientist Julie McGrath (Tamara Davies) and a bunch of loosely sketched dodgy army characters (in a similar vein to Armageddon but with a hundredth of the personality). They have to detonate a nuclear warhead in downtown LA to stop the Earth's plates from shifting. I'm not a world renowned scientist (that may shock you), but I have a strange feeling that the science in this film probably makes no sense whatsoever. Oh well, never mind, at least Mark Dacasos gets to do some of his top ninja moves on people's unfortunate faces...

Erm... he doesn't. He gets to do the odd little bit of grappling, but you wouldn't know from watching this film that he's a death machine in human form, capable of causing pain equal to one thousand paper cuts. In intimate areas. As ever, he's a likeable kind of guy, apart from the dubiously scripted first ten minutes. Even though his acting is never totally convincing, especially in emotional scenes, you're with him all the way. Scorcher reads like a veritable who's who of straight-to-DVD actors (who have previously appeared in fairly big films): the underused, sleepwalking Rutger Hauer as the president (?), John Rhys-Davies as Julie's dad, Mark Rolston (Aliens) as the villainous Special Agent Kellaway and G.W. Bailey (Police Academy) as Mr Combustible Pants, General Moore. Together they lend an air of respectabilty and watchability to the proceedings (sadly any acting talents they may have are lost due to the script).

I've already touched on the dire effects earlier - a classy snowstorm followed by flames shooting up from cracks in a glacier is a particular lowlight - but the music deserves just as much credit for sending this straight to the bargain bins. When it's bombastic standard action fare, it's okay. When it's underscoring emotional scenes, it's shocking. It makes the acting look worse, amazingly. This is proved later on when a tender scene is sans music; it is way more effective. 

Watch this with low expectations and a willingness to gloss over its many faults and you may actually quite enjoy it. If you're lucky.

If you like this you could also try:
The Core, Alien Agent, Drive, Crying Freeman.

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