Sunday, 18 November 2007
CHILL FACTOR (1999)
Directed by: Hugh Johnson
Written by: Drew Gitlin & Mike Cheda
Starring: Cuba Gooding Jr, Skeet Ulrich, Peter Firth and David Paymer.
This film is a bit of a guilty pleasure. I catch it every time it’s on TV and have seen it several times. I’m not sure why I like it really, but it does provide an hour and half worth of fun entertainment. Along with Soldier (another guilty pleasure), Chill Factor is an easygoing mix of action, explosions and (debatable) humour.
On a remote tropical island, Dr. Richard Lang (Paymer) is testing his new experiment: a type of weapon/bomb called Elvis (?) that has to be kept under 50 degrees or it will explode. When said weapon goes off, destroying the island and most of the U.S. Army, rogue army Colonel Brynner (Firth) decides he wants to steal it and sell it to the highest bidder. Lang manages to get the weapon to his friend, Mason (Ulrich) before dying from a gunshot inflicted by Brynner. Mason enlists the help of Marlo (Gooding Jr) and his ice-cream truck (to keep the bomb cool in) and adhering to Lang’s dying wishes, high tail it across country to get the weapon to safety. Along the way they must keep the bomb under 50 degrees and are relentlessly pursued by Brynner and his goons.
So what’s good about it? Well it all ambles along at a fair pace, with suitable bursts of action and comedy. There’s a suspenseful scene where the heroes have to drive the truck along a cliff edge and an exciting ride down the side of a mountain in a speedboat. Ulrich (Scream) and Gooding Jr (Judgment Night) have strong chemistry as the bickering duo (though some may find Gooding Jr’s over-mugging a little irritating). Firth (Amistad) as bad guy, Brynner, is good, camp, evil fun never taking things too seriously (the scene where he is barking orders while eating an ice-cream is particularly funny). The film is no more ridiculous than most other big-budget, high-concept action flicks like say Speed (with both films sharing pretty much the same plot ). The opening sequence of the island being destroyed is also quite suspenseful.
What’s wrong with it? It is a case of been there, done that, seen it all before. The Lethal Weapon style comedy hi-jinks, cartoon goons and big explosions (cool), are all a bit déjà vu. It’s what Hollywood does best (and a lot) and the film feels like a Jerry Bruckheimer flick done lite. Chill Factor also suffers from some decidedly ropey camera work and editing. Fights and stunts are often shot in close-up making it difficult to discern what is going on and some scenes have obviously been sliced and diced. It looks like first time director, Hugh Johnson, has suffered a lot of studio interference when cutting the film together. There are also some glaring mistakes in logic: mobile phones working in tunnels; arguing about how hot it is while continuing to wear heavy leather jackets.
However, this is a film built for entertainment. It is no action classic, but Chill Factor is fun, well acted nonsense and I can’t wait to catch it the next time it’s on TV (shit…I need to get out more).