CRITICAL MASS (2001)
Directed by: Fred Olen Ray
Screenplay: Sean McGinly
Starring: Treat Williams, Udo Kier, Andrew Prine & Lori Loughlin
It’s rip-off city, stock footage-aplooza, stitch a movie together time again in this action quickie from Fred Olen Ray that unashamedly splices in action scenes from both Terminator 2 and Universal Soldier. The legendary Udo Kier is a mad, bad terrorist who plans to blow up a nuclear power plant in order to make some kind of point (or just because he’s evil) and only lowly security guard Treat Williams (and spunky senator’s aid Lori Loughlin) can stop him. Yep it’s also Die Hard rip-off/aplooza/clone time as well as Treat gets down to kicking terrorist ass.
Good ole Fred Olen Ray (along with his regular collaborator, Jim Wynorski) made a ton of these cheap jack action flicks (not to mention horror and sci-fi ones also) and like Critical Mass, they’re usually enjoyable action nonsense. They’re fast moving, have tons of action and usually feature several familiar faces no doubt collecting a pay check but looking like they’re having fun doing it. Udo Kier is always good value as a sneering villain and Treat Williams has always made for a refreshingly believable and witty action hero (see the awesome Deep Rising for further proof). I’m guessing the makers got access to a power plant and then framed a movie around this location (and the aforementioned stock footage) and Critical Mass sticks to the Die Hard formula pretty close with plenty of shoot-outs, fist fights and a rather dangerous looking stunt involving some kind of lift apparatus. In between all the action bits every character seems to be on a cell phone either talking to those trapped inside, the cops watching from the sidelines or to the FBI who are in some office building somewhere monitoring the whole event for some reason or another. So it goes a little like this: shoot-out, phone conversation, shoot-out, phone conversation, fist fight, phone conversation, shoot-out. This is all book-ended by two massive action scenes from Terminator 2 and Universal Soldier.
The films open with footage from the Cyberdyne headquarters attack/ truck and helicopter chase from Terminator 2 and ends with the bus/truck chase from Universal Soldier. It’s all incredibly blatant and probably shoe horned in because a producer got access to the footage cheap and unfortunately leaves a bad taste in the mouth for what is essentially a silly and enjoyable action film. It’s not the first time this has been done but it’s so obviously footage from other more expensive films you will no doubt be sitting watching this going “Oh, come on, really?” Hell, the characters even refer to Cyberdyne by name which surely must incur all kinds of copyright issues? It also means Critcial Mass bizarrely exists/takes place within the same cinematic world of the Terminator films? Sort of. Maybe. Probably not.
Recycled footage to this extent is just lazy and kind of insulting but if you can get past this, Critical Mass is an enjoyably amusing low rent shoot-em up.