[box cover]

Phase IV

Oh, the poor mistreated straight-to-video film. Not merely a film that didn't make it to the big screen, these movies are intended to make an honest living for those involved in their creation by rentals and, nowadays, DVD sales. The Asian film community has long benefited from this practice, with their V-Cinema market serving as a proving ground and farm system whose graduates include such filmmakers as Takashi Miike. But while the Asian films tend to focus on genre stories that come with a built-in fan-base, American direct-video filmmaking has long been a wasteland of bad thrillers and suspense flicks. To the surprise of no one, Phase IV (2001) does nothing to change that. A series of odd accidents has taken the life of four students at New England University, and when a fifth is brutally beaten, apparently at the hands of Dr. Ben Roanic, a conspiracy starts to take shape. Enter Simon Tate (Dean Cain), a 30-year old journalism student who is still clinging to a year of athletic eligibility after a series of bad knee injuries. As a friend of Roanic, he begins an investigation into the deaths. Roanic is soon murdered, but not before planting a mysterious box of pills on Tate. The pills prove to be what's known as Phase II. It seems that local pharmaceutical company Stroyker Pierson has discovered a cure for AIDS, and the plan is currently in Phase III, in which anyone who knows of the cure is silenced so the company can continue to make money selling drugs for symptoms. Due to his knowledge of the drug, Tate is targeted for death by the company and must get the information out before he is killed. The mercenary who handles Phase III, Steven Birnam (Brian Bosworth), apparently is a detective, but he never shows a badge and seems to have free reign over the police and the freedom to do anything he wants. And quite honestly, Bosworth comes across well in Phase IV, while Tate's aforementioned knee injury becomes something of a ridiculous side plot. The people chasing him know about his gimpy leg, and they take every opportunity to whack it with poles, baseball bats, and even automobiles. But the former TV Superman apparently is still in good shape, since he continues to get up and run despite the continued beatings. When Tate gets even with Birnam, kicking him square in the kneecap, the moment finally comes, and in his best Sam Elliot impression, he says "Hurts, doesn't it?" It's one of the only bright spots in an otherwise dull suspense movie. Fox has released Phase IV in all of its full-screen glory, with a Spanish language track, scene selection (including such stirring chapters as "I Didn't Do It!" and "Hurry Up!"), and a trailer.
—Scott Anderson



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