[box cover]

Extreme Limits

As Extreme Limits proves, when it comes to action movies, it's not the plot — it's the execution. Originally titled Crash Point Zero and apparently not shown theatrically, Fox picked up CP0 for home-video and retitled it the equally bland Extreme Limits. The routine adventure-thriller runs thus: The subtly-named archeological explorer and former CIA agent Dr. Hunter (John Beck), exploring remote Siberia with his daughter Nadia (Julie St. Claire), discovers the fabled "Tesla Death Ray," which has been apocryphally credited with causing the 1908 Tunguska Explosion. Learning that the device can cause massive destruction by converting thoughts to pure energy, Hunter alerts the CIA that he will be bringing the device back to America on a charter flight, by way of Canada. But nefarious forces have been following Dr. Hunter, led by Beck (Hannes Jaenicke), who hijacks the jet. After some unexpected gunplay forces the plane down in the Canadian Rockies, Nadia sets out with the Death Ray for civilization, with Beck in pursuit; a group of impetuous travelers decide to set out on their own; and a third, smaller group stays with the wreckage, hoping to be rescued. In the meantime CIA Agent Jason Ross (Treat Williams) is tasked with finding Dr. Hunter and the Death Ray, sending him to the snowy north with barely a lead to follow. Directed by Jay Andrews with a script by Steve Latshaw, the best that can be said about Extreme Limits is that it moves fairly quickly — as such, its broad, finger-painted strokes are probably best enjoyed drunk or with a little doobie. All of the sins of low-budget films are here: ham-fisted exposition, central-casting characters, wooden acting, ass-cringing dialogue, stock and borrowed footage for second-unit inserts (the hijack sequence is swiped from Renny Harlin's Cliffhanger, while the finale is from his Long Kiss Goodnight), and — worst of all — characters who beg to be hated by the audience. The only fun element is Treat Williams, who is a Genuine Movie Star and does his best with the material, getting off two or three funny quips when the chase is underway. But then again, this is the actor who dominated Milos Forman's Hair and helped make Sidney Lumet's epic Prince of the City one of the most powerful cop films of all time. Unfortunately, if like this writer you are a fan of Williams and will watch him in anything, Extreme Limits is still disappointing, as he is not given enough screen time or much of a script to work with. For a better experience try Alistair MacLean's pulp novel Night Without End, which covers the same frozen-tundra ground and doesn't feature people in cheap grizzly bear costumes eating the actors. Fox's DVD of Extreme Limits offers a clean anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with audio in Dolby Digital 5.1 or Dolby 2.0 Surround. Supplements include a chipper commentary track with director Andrews, actress St. Claire, and cinematographer Andrea Rossotto, which is vastly more entertaining than the film itself — the trio interacts well, with the glib Andrews offering most of the comments and readily admitting the limitations of his budget. Also here are a few cast notes, a trailer, and a photo gallery. But do the folks at Fox even care? The boxcover notes indicate this film takes place in Alaska, that the jet crashes with "deadly explosives," and that Williams' character is not CIA, but a "U.S. Military Agent." It appears the marketing department had one finger on the fast-forward button. Hey, at least we sat through the whole thing.

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