Drop Zone (US - BD RA)
Our reviewer A.J. Hakari is fallin' out of reach, defyin' gravity... Sorry... He's new
Ah, yes, 1994. A formative year as a filmgoing youth, having spent the summer raiding the Auto Stop's dollar VHS rentals alongside my brother. This was also a time when Hollywood decided that viewers just couldn't live without not one but two mediocre skydiving thrillers (and starring Major League alumni, no less). We had Terminal Velocity with Charlie Sheen (which should just about kill any interest you might have), and slightly edging it out was Drop Zone, headlined by Wesley Snipes. While it helps to have the man who would be Blade in its court, Drop Zone is a relatively lifeless heist flick, conjuring the bare minimum of escapist fun and hardly outfitted enough to justify its Blu-Ray debut.
Snipes plays Pete Nessip, a lawman so loaded down with cliches, I'm surprised he's not three days away from retirement too. Pete's a U.S. Marshal who, with his brother/partner (Malcolm Jamal-Warner), is tasked with escorting a nebbishy computer whiz (Michael Jeter) to his new digs. But halfway through the flight over, a band of terrorists (led by Señor Crazy himself, Gary Busey) stages a daring prison break and makes off with the hacker in tow. With his bro dead and his superiors doubtful of the truth, Pete vows to bring justice to the scoundrels by himself. To do so, he enters the devil-may-care skydiving scene, wherein he crosses paths with tough-as-nails Jess Crossman (Yancy Butler) and recruits her in a race to stop the Busey Patrol from pulling off the heist of a lifetime.
Truth be told, it took me four days to make it through Drop Zone. There's nothing particularly rancid about the film (save for some Asylum-level green screen work), but the more I watched, the less of a flip I gave. It's a movie bored in and of itself, eager to please audiences with what probably was at the time a cool idea but not so much as to follow through. Though directed by John Badham of the '80s treats WarGames and Short Circuit, Drop Zone contains neither the thrills nor the good-natured cheese of those nostalgic nuggets. One suspects that the studio just stuck Badham behind the camera and told him to tailor a somewhat plausible narrative to suit the skydiving sequences. Try as the presumably grizzled bastard might, he does get the action off the ground a few times, only for the forced banter and dreadful pacing to yank it back down to terra firma.
As the aeronautics are its main draw, I'll admit that Drop Zone had some fairly cool stuntwork. Even if it's gut-bustingly obvious that the actors aren't in the sky, somebody still is, and there's always some joy to be had in watching what's impossible for most laymen being achieved. But for a story that likes to harp on about accuracy so much, it sure likes to flush plausibility down the toilet whenever the characters carry on audible conversations while plummeting towards the ground. Then again, there's not much consistency to begin with, since the action scenes are only intermittenly engaging, and the villains light up the screen a hell of a lot more than the good guys. Snipes is curiously charisma-free here, and lord knows Butler's tough girl act doesn't fly, so it's up to folks like Busey, Jeter, and that one guy who was on "Home Improvement" a lot to spark up the joint with their combined presence.
I wouldn't say Drop Zone was "transferred" so much as it was "hurriedly shuttled under cover of darkness" to Blu-Ray. If you're looking for a pristine restoration, the Criterion Collection is a few doors down on the left. Again, the skydiving scenes can be mighty stunning, but the rest of the film is hit-and-miss. There's still some grain from time to time that I, weaned on countless VHS viewings, kind of enjoyed (although there's an odd, smearing sort of look that pops up in the finale).
You've got yourself an English language 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, backed up by English and Spanish subtitles. A passable mixing job has been done, with the gunplay and Hans Zimmer score keeping viewers as occupied as they were willing to circa 16 years ago. If there were any flubs, I didn't notice them, though like the film itself, the sound tends to go in one ear and out the other just as easily.
Special features? Supplements? Drop Zone knows not these things. Aside from ads for other Lionsgate offerings, all you get is a theatrical trailer that does quite a job of blanding up the story even more. Lionsgate is really hinging on your dedication to Wesley Snipes at this juncture, but if you're like me, finding someone who even remembers Drop Zone is an ordeal unto itself.
Drop Zone joins The Phantom and Jade as other '90s relics you thought you'd forgotten that Lionsgate felt the need to enter into the hi-def hustle. The work done on this disc isn't the worst; it's a matter of the film itself being so phenomenally dull at times that'll most curb your purchase. But if your action library can't possibly survive without the silliest skydiving wear known to man, then may Drop Zone entertain your warped little niche.
*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by A.J. Hakari
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 9th February 2010
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Extras: Theatrical Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: John Badham
Cast: Wesley Snipes, Yancy Butler, Gary Busey
Length: 101 minutes