Thursday, 14 February 2008
THE ALTERNATE (aka AGENT OF DEATH) (1999)
Directed by: Sam Firstenberg
Written by: Bryan Genesse
Starring: Eric Roberts, Bryan Genesse, Ice-T & Michael Madsen
The Alternate is a bizarre and badly made film but for some reason, that escapes this reviewer, still a relatively fun B-movie. The likes of Eric Roberts (Heaven’s Prisoners), Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs) and Ice-T (Trespass) star in the story of an evil mastermind (Bryan Genesse) attempting to kidnap the US President (John Beck). The plot is all but irrelevant (and makes little sense) in what is either a great or truly awful B-movie depending on your disposition
Directed by Sam Firstenberg, the helmer of fun times such as American Ninja, Cyborg Cop 1 and 2 and produced by B-movie specialists Nu Image, the film is obviously restricted by budget limitations. The action revolves around one setting (a large hotel) and while this should have meant a taught and claustrophobic action thriller, the over indulgent script (written by Genesse) instead piles on the clichés and continuity gaffes.
So we get: guns that change type in the middle of action sequences; protagonists shooting at less than three feet from one another and hitting nothing; Ice-T disappearing half way through the movie; extremely bad false moustaches; a pair of wince inducing “comedy” rednecks who serve no purpose to the plot; Genesse (good in Cold Harvest and Night Siege) acting like the smuggest of smug gits; Roberts tucking himself in and zipping up his fly (!?) in the middle of a scene; a flame thrower that is quite obviously a spray painted supersoaker; the same car blowing up twice; an awful riff on the hose scene from Die Hard; a cable attached to a stuntman in plain view; mannequins replacing stuntmen falling from a building; ridiculous dialogue such as “I don’t kill Americans”; and Michael Madsen’s complete non-acting.
So based on all these crimes against cinema, The Alternate should not, under any circumstances, be recommended? If you are into foreign films and urban dramas then yeah, stay away. But if you dig cheesy B-movies then give it a look, even if only for the unintentional laugh factor. The first half hour builds tension adequately and for every scene that is incompetently put together, there are a few decent action scenes. Roberts flexes his muscles in two fierce fights, one with Genesse and another with a female combatant. There is also a cool shoot-out in a swimming pool. This all contributes to a certain energy that only B-movies of this ilk exude. This is evident in the closing credit outtakes which feature many goof and gaffes that show the cast and crew having a good time. Madsen’s prank on the crew is priceless and better than his whole performance in the movie.
Film is all about perspective and many will perceive, and rightly so, The Alternate as crap. Yet, if you can go with it, or enjoy these types of movies anyway, there is fun to be found in this B-movie barminess. Or maybe I’m just drunk?