It is often easy to forget while suffering through "Extreme Ops" that
what you are watching is the product of a major studio (in this case,
Paramount Pictures). Every scene--heck, make that every frame--is
so mind-numbingly amateurish and asinine one wonders how the film
ever was greenlit in the first place. Moreover, who decided it was
a good idea to hand Christian Duguay (2000's "The Art of War") a camera?
I'd sooner hand over the directorial reigns to a one-eyed monkey than
allow Duguay to ever make another feature film.
Movies as pitiful and misguided as "Extreme Ops" come around only
a handful of times each year, and the only response they elicit from
viewers is that of a head-scratch. An action film centering on the
topic of extreme snowboarding with a dimwitted terrorist plot thrown
in for kicks, the film tries to be entertaining, hip, exciting, and
a desirable time-waster for the teen crowd. It promptly falls on its
face within the opening scene on all four counts, and never even begins
to recover. I've seen zero-budgeted student films in college that
have offered more stimulation and innovation than what "Extreme Ops"
throws at the unsuspecting viewer.
For the first 70 minutes, there is virtually no plot to speak of.
Commercial director Ian (Rufus Sewell) sets out with partner Jeffrey
(Rupert Graves), production assistant Will (Devon Sawa), and a ragtag
group of ski-stunt performers (Bridgette Wilson-Sampras, Joe Absolom,
Jana Pallaske) to a remote winter resort under construction to film
an advertisement for Avalanche camcorders. They goof around, drink,
snowboard, and diligently recite stupid and shallow dialogue that
one supposes passes for character development nowadays. As the movie's
end draws mercifully close, an actual problem arises: a Russian military
strongman named Pavlov (Klaus Lowitsch) under hideout spots the filmmakers
and mistakes them for CIA operatives. Believing that their safety
is threatened, Pavlov and his cronies will stop at nothing to kill
every one of the intruders.
Even for those undemanding audience members who expect nothing more
of "Extreme Ops" than some thrilling action sequences and stunts,
they will walk away feeling supremely cheated. The snowboarding footage,
just like the rest of the picture, is haphazardly edited by Clive
Barrett and Sylvain Lebel in a way that sucks the life and potential
energy out of its every second. And the screenplay, unfortunately
credited to Michael Zaidan, is mindboggling in its inanity. The writing
is forgettable tripe, with a story that is nonexistent up until the finale.
The actors--some of which have been involved in respectable projects
in the past--should be ashamed of their involvement here. The performance
of the usually good Rufus Sewell (2001's "A Knight's Tale") is akin
to that of a corpse, while Devon Sawa (2000's "Final Destination")
and Bridgette Wilson-Sampras (2001's "The Wedding Planner") try to
retain their dignity in the face of such a cinematic catastrophe.
Erasing "Extreme Ops" from all of the above's résumés would be an
intelligent idea if they plan to get further work in the future.
For aspiring directors and screenwriters everywhere, "Extreme Ops"
offers hope. If Christian Duguay and Michael Zaidan can be given millions
of dollars by a studio to film something as obnoxiously bad as this,
then even a young child of seven or eight has what it takes to work
in Hollywood. "Extreme Ops" is a painful wipeout, in all senses of the term.
Copyright © 2002 Dustin Putman