Yes, this has nicked its If The Bomb (Insert Convoluted Condition), Then It'll Go Off And Kill Everybody plot off Speed. Yes, Peter Firth's Brynner is a carbon copy of John Travolta in Broken Arrow. And yes, it rattles towards a finale straight out of The Rock. But - surprise, surprise - as Identikit film-making goes, this is glossy, sharp and alarmingly enjoyable stuff.
It thrashes around a bit for the first 20 minutes. A flashback to a ballsed-up Elvis weapon test 10 years ago which saw 18 men die and Brynner packed off to chokey is probably a plot essential - but the film could have done without wasting time establishing a daffy fly-fishing motif (no joke). But once Elvis leaves the building - and this is not a film that leaves any Elvis gag unturned - things kick into gear.
Gooding Jr wheels out his jive-talking Jerry Maguire persona one more time and gels pretty well with Ulrich, who, despite looking increasingly like a crossbreed between Thumper the rabbit and Johnny Depp, handles the running, jumping and punching like a man born to it. Meanwhile, bullet-headed bad guy Firth oozes sneery menace as Brynner, backed up nicely by Xena The Warrior Princess escapee Leick as his sexy leatherclad assassin sidekick. Granted, the script has a few bumpy patches, but by the end settles into a smooth groove of relaxed, tough guy one-liners that lets everyone have his or her 15 seconds in the spotlight.
Behind the camera, debut director Johnson puts his years spent working for Ridley and Tony Scott to good effect. Mixing tension-driven set pieces with balls-out action, he gives the whole thing a sleek, energetic feel that movies with twice its budget ($34 million, fact fans) struggle for. It's daft stuff, but any man who can use multi-angles, amber tints and thumping MOR rock to make a speeding ice-cream truck exciting has surely got a future in action movies...
Scoring badly in the originality stakes but high on the fun-o-meter, this unpretentious Saturday-night popcorner won't disappoint anyone who likes their plots simple, their action fast and their brains untroubled. Chill out and enjoy.
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