A scene from 'Extreme Ops'
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NO stars
93 minutes | Rated: PG-13
Opened: Wednesday, November 27, 2002
Directed by Christian Duguay

Starring Devon Sawa, Rufus Sewell, Bridgette Wilson-Sampras, Heino Ferch, Joe Absolom, Rupert Graves, Klaus Maria Brandauer, Jean-Pierre Castaldi, Klaus Lowitsch, Heinrich Schmieder, Jana Pallaske


If the action scenes in this flick were even remotely well-shot, watching them on video might reduce their effectiveness. But since this thing is a total disaster on every level, watching it on video won't make a damn bit of difference.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 05.06.2003


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'Extreme' endurance required to stomach bad acting, worse F/X in inept snowboarders vs. terrorists action flick

By Rob Blackwelder

I can't remember the last time I saw worse stunt editing or cheaper action movie production values than in "Extreme Ops," a virtually plotless snowboarders-vs.-terrorists waste of celluloid, so feeble in every way that its only entertainment value is in snickering at the characters' supposedly uber-hip hairstyles.

Cue-card-quality, glazed-eyed, 20-nothing actor Devon Sawa (who looks as if he's spent the two years since "Final Destination" eating donuts and smoking dope) sports a do that resembles dozens of shellacked, broken chopsticks glued to his head. Giggly Angeline Jolie look-alike Jana Pallaske is supposed to be some kind of rocker "grrrl" (her punk band intro scene is so badly dubbed you'd think she was in a Godzilla movie) but the extent of her street chick cred is a few streaks of blue in her hair.

Both play daredevil snowboarders/skiers hired by a TV commercial director (Rufus Sewell, "A Knight's Tale") to fly to Austria and outrun an avalanche for a camcorder advertisement. But when they arrive at their location -- a half-finished mountaintop resort -- they run afoul of generically scruffy Eastern European terrorists using the place as a hideout. Now they must extreme-board for their lives.

Since director Christian Duguay ("The Art of War," "Screamers") can't even edit together a simple conversation without it looking as if the actors shot their scenes at different times in different rooms, it's no surprise that there isn't a single one of these mountainside sequences that's the least bit convincing.

As stunt people slice and trick-maneuver down steep snowy slopes on location (daylight, blue skies, depth of field), Duguay cuts back and forth to close-ups of the action-pantomiming actors on a laughably obvious soundstage (unnatural lighting, flat mountain-scene backdrop, fake snow blowing from one corner of the screen). Sometimes the continuity is so sloppy that a scene will look like noon from one angle and dusk from another.

In one chase two people are supposed to be riding on one snowboard, and one of them is clearly a dummy. In another the characters are supposedly jumping out of a gondola (sometimes depicted by a cheap miniature) onto the slopes far below, yet there's a crewmember clearly visible in the shot, just below the bottom of the carriage.

It is, of course, a given that if the movie's showpieces are this bad, the filmmakers would care even less about the story -- and since it's one of these new breed of "extreme" action movies (lead by "XXX," in which Vin Diesel has already outrun an avalanche in a sequence infinitely cooler than anything in this bomb), they also assume the audience has equally low standards.

There doesn't seem much point in describing the myriad of plot holes since the plot exists only to service several snowboarders-chased-by-helicopters scenes. But it is worth noting that there's zero dimension to be found in the performances -- especially those of Bridget Wilson-Sampras ("The Wedding Planner," "The House On Haunted Hill") as the TV commercial's gold medal ski-bunny spokesperson, and newcomer Joe Absolom as the group's supposedly uber-rebel skateboard dude who has all the personality of a wet paper towel.

The most embarrassing element of "Extreme Ops," however, has to be the irony of a promise made by the TV commercial's producer that they're "not doing the avalanche with CGI" -- when this movie uses old, old, old-fashioned special effects that are exponentially worse than even the cheapest CGI.


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