review by Cynthia Fuchs, 29 November 2002
producer of "extreme" television commercials (the sort
associated with Mountain Dew) is trying to impress a potential new
client. He brags about his extreme sports crew, whom he sends
leaping out of helicopters, off cliffs, and into white water. As
they watch his team flail about, their kayaks dangling uncertainly
from cables, the producer, whose name is Jeffrey (Rupert Graves),
looks smug. He's equipped one team member with a fancy little
digital camera, in order to achieve maximum effect. Jeffrey leans in
and speaks conspiratorially: the camera allows you to "have the
latent energy of the moment." The client looks blank. The what?
reaction is one of the more sensible occurrences in Extreme Ops,
a high-concept movie that mostly leaves out the concept part. When,
safe in an office building, Jeffrey makes another pitch to the
woman's boss, he can't help himself, and offers to shoot the
promised "skiing in front of an avalanche" stunt for real,
not digitally doctored. The boss likes that. But Jeffrey's partner,
the smart-ass director Ian (Rufus Sewell), and their fearless
cameraman Will (Devon Sawa, who survived Final Destination
for this), resent this promise being made without consultation. So,
they dangle Jeffrey off the roof of that building, Vanilla
Ice-style. Jeffrey, being the whiny wuss that he is, apologizes like
mad and promises to grant Ian control over future
"creative" decisions, but, well, in the meantime, they
head to the Austrian Alps to catch some avalanche.
not before they assemble the rest of their motley crew. First, the
noisy girl singer and thrill-seeker Kittie (Jana Pallaske),
introduced on stage screaming her lyrics, then launching herself in
an energetic dive, into a crowd that parts and lets her hit the
ground, splat. Next, rebel sk8er-boi Silo (Joe Absolom), who arrives
at the airport racing his board past astonished passengers like a
punk version of O.J. back in the day.
last, divine Chloe (Bridgette Wilson, who must have better
things to do, like watching her husband play tennis). She's a world
champion downhill racer, but not so adept at negotiating unknown
territory and "drop-offs." Ian is appalled that she's come
along to ski in an avalanche, but Jeffrey insists that they need
"America's Sweetheart," because her participation ensures
bankrolling. And radical boarders Kittie and Silo make fun of her
(skiing straight down a hill to go a millisecond faster than someone
else is "boring, lame, stupid").
whole business versus art thing comes up a few more times, mostly as
a means for Jeffrey and Ian to squabble, or Ian and Chloe to bond,
or Will to imagine himself a more important character than he is.
But it doesn't structure much of Christian Duguay's movie, which is
plainly all about cash money. To that end, it lifts any previous
movie plot-or-stunt that might get a rise out of even one viewer:
swoopy chopper shots of teeny little figures skiing or boarding down
vast mountainsides, tracking shots taken from alongside the
skiers/boarders as they swoosh and whoosh through trees and across
crevices, or speed ahead of an avalanche started by the team's
infinitely patient German tech, Mark (Heino Ferch). The sheer number
of these repeats is probably enough to keep you from dozing off --
and much of it is snazzy (shot by Hannes Hubach, edited by Clive
Barrett and Sylvain Lebel). Still, it's a problem when the best part
of your movie is the part that looks like a soda commercial.
only drama (that is, recognizable face shots of anyone on the
mountain) occurs when Chloe takes a couple of spills (included,
presumably, to show that Ian was right not to want her along). First
she's embarrassed ("I'm a great freakin' skier!"), and
then she pouts. Prettily.
at the half-finished resort hotel where they're staying for free,
the crew members get to know one another while checking the day's
footage on their well-outfitted laptops. In further pursuit of
camaraderie, the four youngsters disrobe and clamber into a
makeshift hot tub (heated stones tossed into an outdoor pool) and
play truth or dare. How tedious of them.
might not guess this right off, but there is a plot point contained
in this exercise, when Kittie and Chloe smooch on a dare for Will's
camera. At first, the girls-gone-wild moment is just about driving
the supremely inept boys batty with desire (and, who knows, maybe
some of the target viewers as well). But the next day, you learn the
true extent of the script's cunning, when the team runs into some
very scary characters, who happen to be hiding out on the mountain
for our hapless heroes, their fellow campers are Serbian war
criminals. And what are they doing on this particular mountain? It
seems that head criminal Slobovan Pavle (Klaus Löwitsch) has faked
his death in a plane crash into the mountain. Now he's planning his
next move, with loving attention from his exotic,
fingernail-painting girlfriend Yana (Liliana Komorowska, who's
married to director Duguay). And he's more than a little annoyed
when he hears that the commercial crew has digital footage of him
(taken by Will, who actually took it because he was lusting after
the girlfriend). Pavle hears about the tape (of him) and decides --
without much thought, apparently -- that the Americans are CIA.
convoluted as all this is, it does lead back to the girls kissing in
the hot tub, when Pavle's psycho son, Slavko (David Scheller) is
assigned to capture the crew and get the tape they have of his dad.
Being psycho, he can't just do that. He demands that the girls
reenact their kiss, or else he'll shoot them dead:
"Princess," he grunts, meaning Chloe, "kiss
boyfriend," meaning Kittie. Horrors: not only is Slavko vaguely
Eastern European, greasy-haired, and grizzle-faced, but he is also
depraved. Apparently, even more so than the boys in the hot tub.
crew narrowly escapes, but that only means that the rest of the film
consists of their pursuit by Pavle in his chopper, armed with an
automatic weapon. How fortuitous that they get more footage while
they're hanging off fraying cables, leaping off cliffs, and roaring
down the mountain, as well as avoiding gunfire, explosions, and
another avalanche. That footage makes it all worthwhile: they
succeed in their commercial enterprise, beating back the evil Serbs
who would kill them or worse, squash their right to make bank.
Timothy Scott Bogart
PG-13 - Parents
Some material may
be inappropriate for
childern under 13.