The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Velocity Trap (1999)

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After the role that should've been his was taken by a 300-pound pork roast in the last film of his we reviewed, I was looking to get Olivier Gruner back in the saddle ASAP, but unfortunately Netflix didn't cooperate right away, because this wasn't readily available. I have it now though, so let's see how it went.

Velocity Trap takes place out in space in the 22nd century, where Olivier Gruner works security for a mining company on some far-off colony. There's a whole bunch of crap surrounding him and his whistle-blowing on some company exec's shady business practices and something to do with Gruner's wife being owned by his boss or something. Anyway, he ends up pulling duty doing security for a 6 month trip back to Earth to deposit $40 billion in cash. While the crew sleeps, he does ballet and whatnot, until another ship comes out of nowhere and docks onto them and boards and tries to steal the cash. Uh oh, whatever will M. Gruner do?

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Was that synopsis convoluted enough? Consider that I cut some other aspects of it out. That should give you an idea of what I was up against, because this was something of a tough sit, which is too bad, because I wanted to like it. It ran into the classic sci-fi dilemma: too much back story crammed into the plot to set the scene for us, and in this case it was so much we didn't have any real action till sometime around the hour mark. That's right, almost an hour of blah before the shooting started. It had it's moments, like Gruner goofing around while everyone was asleep-- including some great ballet-- but having its moments doesn't make up for an overall 90 minutes of "what's the point?"

At the very least, we can say that Gruner was the star here, and his role wasn't given to a 300-pound pork roast, so in that sense, Velocity Trap is already ahead of the game. On the other hand, Gruner spent very little time being the kickass action star we know and love. It looked good to start, with him taking out a gang of thugs on the street as he bought an apple from a vendor, and went into another pretty sweet scene right after; but that was it for a long time, and even when the action did start, it wasn't always that great-- lots of bad shootouts and poorly choreographed fight scenes. The way to do this movie would've been to cut out a chunk of the crap in the middle, add a bunch of baddies, and make this into a solid Die Hard on a ship, really playing to Gruner's strengths as a martial artist.

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This movie used a lot of computer special effects, especially outside the ship. I'm not saying they didn't look nice, but were they what you'd want to hang your hat on? I don't know. We could ask George Lucas, who also made a movie in 1999 where he hung his hat on CGI, and that didn't go over so well either. Style over substance, yes, but make sure it's the right style. Gruner flexing his martial arts muscles: the right style; a space ship dog fight rendered in CG: cool but not that cool.

Two very hot women in this: Alicia Coppola (no relation to Francis Ford and Sofia) and Jorja Fox. The thing about Jorja Fox that is so hot is how attractive she looks when she's scowling. As a rule, people don't look good with a bad look on their face. Take me for instance, I look like I'm smelling something funny. 50% of looking good is smiling as far as I can tell, and it makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint; but Jorja Fox completely flies in the face of that rule. She also has a really cool voice. In Velocity Trap she didn't have a huge role, but one thing she did have was a large breast plate with nipples, a la Batgirl in Batman and Robin-- or was that Batman who had the bat-nipples?

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Finally, Bruce Weitz of Hill Street Blues fame had a small part in this as the ship's captain. I'll always remember him from his guest spot on Highlander, where he played an old Irish fight promoter immortal with a weird obsessive murderous streak. Very good Irish accent too, considering he's from Connecticut. Best part about that episode: Duncan in a 19th century bare knuckles boxing match using the old school underhanded punch style. Great stuff.

But you know if I'm discussing old Highlander episodes that the movie itself is lacking, and that's the case with Velocity Trap. It was too caught up in its own story and its CG effects, and didn't provide enough substance behind it. Too bad, because it wasted the performances of a great cast and didn't utilize Gruner's martial arts skills enough as a result.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120435/

9 comments:

  1. I found this film at my local library of all prices, I thought it was pretty decent(course it helps that I was able to rent it for a dollar) I do agree that the middle section was a bit too slow though, another Gruner film-Crackerjack 3 had the same problem, both film swould've been better if they had some fat trimmed off. The special effects were actually pretty good for a DTV sci-fi film(BTW I don't get all the hate for Phantom Menace, I guess people just had they're expectations too high, I guess I enjoyed it more then most because I wasn't really expecting much from it) At least they look good compared to that DTV Mark Hammil film-Laserhawk, which looked REALLY cheap to say the least.

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  2. This one had a really good commentary on the DVD, with Roth, Gruner and some crew member. Roth made fun of Gruner's ears all the time and they couldn't remember why that "garbage robot" was in the movie etc... It also one-upped "Dacascos doing karaoke in Drive" in the "how embarassing stuff can a bad-ass do while still remaining a bad-ass"-department, with Gruner doing his ballet! Anyone remember anything that would top this?

    Gruner and Roth apparently had a good relationship. The did Interceptor Force and the sequel after this. I thought the sequel was rather lousy and everyone seems to hate the original, but I really like it. I think it's great stuff. One of the few movies where I really disagree with most b-action lovers. Oh well, can't win them all.

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  3. I actually liked both Interceptor Force films. BTW did you know there's a spin-off film called Phantom Force? It hasn't been released on DVD yet, though if you're lucky you might be able to catch it on the Sci-fi Channel(I REFUSE to spell it Syfy, that's just stupid)

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  4. venom - I'm from Finland, so no Sci-Fi Channel here. But I know it. I actually thought the SyFy thing was a joke for a long time, until I saw a TV-rip with the new logo. That's not just stupid, it's beyond stupid. I've seen Phantom Force. It's available on DVD in at least the Netherlands, Australia and Japan. Not bad, considering Grieco had three years before that done "Death, Deceit & Destiny Aboard the Orient Express", which, in my opinion, is the very worst of all Die Hard-clones out there (Spacejacked comes close, but films like Skyscraper, Terminal Rush etc. are masterpieces compared to that). And they marketed it with the tagline "An explosive interpretation of Agatha Christie's beloved classic"!

    Now, about Gruner... I wasn't as impressed with IF2 as I was with the first one, but it's definitely one of the better ones he's done in the 21st century. Gruner's downfall actually brings me to this question: Is there another action star, who has been in some good stuff (Nemesis even got a theatrical release), but has since worked with ALL of the holy four: Phillip J. Roth's UFO, Lloyd A. Simandl's North American Releasing, Jalal Merhi's Film One AND David Huey's Cine Excel? And Gruner has even done MORE than one film with all those! I like Gruner a lot, but after 2000, something went horribly wrong.

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  5. Yeah, that is an impressive feat, I actually like those film companies though(UFO especially) But yeah, Gruners later work has been dissapointing somewhat, INO his best film was definitely Mercenary.

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  6. Gruner's a weird case, but I think he had trouble when Van Damme fell into the ranks of DTV, because he initially took roles that Gruner would've gotten. Hopefully that will even out. There were also a couple recently that looked promising but never saw the light of day, so maybe we'll get those too.

    And I think Sci-Fi changed to SyFy because of copyright issues. Often there are much bigger things at play than what we think looks cool or dumb.

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  7. Sci-Fi said they changed they're name because of changing demographics or something like that, they didn't say one word about copyright issues.

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  8. Yeah, this looks pretty good, especially with that tag line. I do hate when D2DVD uses too much CGI. It's never really good, so why try to make it the focal point?

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  9. Totally agreed, especially with such a talented martial artist at their disposal here.

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