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Act of War
(1998)
 

Director:Robert Lee                      
Cast:
Jack Scalia, Douglas H. Arthurs, Ingrid Torrance


That's it. I've finally had enough of this kind of garbage, and I won't take any more. That is, rip-offs of Die Hard. Actually, I should make that bad rip-offs of Die Hard. And Act Of War isn't just a bad rip-off of Die Hard, it's currently the worst rip-off of Die Hard that I can think of. It's so bad, that I think I'm going to lay off this genre for a while, even if it possibly means that I might miss another Point Blank.

Act Of War has no imagination - not only does it rip off the basic idea of Die Hard, it rips off specific individual characteristics from that movie, making almost no effort to hide this. I can hardly believe that in the credits, there are two additional writers credited with "additional material". Die Hard had a comic-relief limo driver driving the hero to the location where he battles. Act Of War has a comic-relief taxi driver driving our hero to the location where he battles. Die Hard's hero was estranged from his wife, working at the location he arrives at after the drive. Act Of War's hero is estranged from his girlfriend, working at the location he arrives at after the drive. Both movies have the hero in another room when the terrorists arrive. Both movies have a hostage that turns traitor, and get blown away by the bad guy for their efforts. And both movies eventually get their heroes fighting in their vests. Though the main difference between each movie's handling of all of the above was that Die Hard handled all of these things competently, while these same things come across as lame and contrived in Act Of War. In fact, everything about Act Of War comes across this way.

Viewers knowing that this movie is set in the fictitious former Soviet republic of Bazrhikistan, and that the movie was shot in the Czech Republic, may be intrigued by this change in location, and may also expect to see some scenic locations. Sorry, but the way every scene indoors or outdoors is shot, they might as well have shot in British Columbia. (Interestingly, the look of this Canadian movie looks very much like the weird look seen in Canadian television dramas.) Nothing stands out, not even the soldiers under the command of the bald-headed villain, who at the beginning of the movie invade a missile base and get into a shoot-out with the base's soldiers. The soldiers on both sides look exactly the same, so it's impossible to figure out who is shooting at whom. And this incomprehensible shoot-out goes on forever. Eventually, we figure out that one wounded soldier, escaping with a missile key, is one of the good guys. For a long time, we follow his torturous (for him and us) escape through passage after passage, making his way to the surface, getting into a truck, driving away - and BAM! - he's killed! What the hell was the point of all that time focused on him, if he was just going to get killed!

Previously, we were introduced to the movie's hero, Jack, who is first seen donning his tux during the opening credits sequence with "Oooooooooh" singing of of Russian military choir singing in the background. We learn he's just been replaced from his security position at the American embassy, but we don't know why - and when we finally learn the reason (near the end of the movie), we no longer care. For now, we assume that it's because Jack keeps showing throughout the movie what a smug, arrogant asshole he is, including a scene not long afterwards when he literally crashes into a party at the embassy by paying the driver to drive through the front doors. (And this scene is about as sophisticated as the action sequences in this movie get.) After the initial fuss dies down, he meets his ex-girlfriend, who is at first pissed off at him, but within seconds they can't get their hands off of each other and share some late afternoon delight upstairs.

Of course, this is the cue for the terrorists to arrive in a catering van, which is so badly painted over by the production team, you can still see the original lettering underneath. The terrorists and their bald-headed boss (whose name I never was sure of) capture those party-goers downstairs, while Jack and his girlfriend momentarily escape detection. Ditching his shirt and coat, Jack pulls from nowhere a green jacket (which gets torn off not long afterwards) and begins to fight the terrorists, from the inside of the mansion, to the grounds outside, and deep in the large network of abandoned mine tunnels which just happen to run underneath the mansion!

The rest of Act Of War is even more lame than what you've just read, though one improvement from this point on is that the arrogant Jack does shut up for long periods of times. We get a shot of the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. that's captioned, "National Security Headquarters". Twice in the movie we clearly see the camera crew reflected in a big mirror hanging on a wall. The terrorists plan on threatening to launch nuclear missiles, but we never find out what targets they plan to blow up. And near the end of the movie, when the director senses we can't take any more of this crap, he has the hero pull out a rocket launcher from nowhere, and shoot down the helicopter Mr. Baldy is in. Though then the director plays a trick on us by having the bad guy coming out of nowhere a few minutes later to attack our hero. I'm serious. And I'm also serious when I tell you there's never any explanation as to how the bad guy was able to survive a flaming wreckage that fell down several hundred feet. It won't come to anyone's surprise that the bad guy gets killed, though this final struggle has no excitement at all. As a matter of fact, this movie manages to make killing look boring.

Not only is this a lame movie, it's an incredibly cheap one as well. Each scene, even the ones outdoors, look very malnourished. It seems the mansion they rented for this house didn't come with electricity, so the people at the party stand around in darkened rooms, which don't seem to have any tables or chairs of any kind. Other kinds of props that you would expect to find in different scenes seem to be missing as well. The most laughable example of this movie's small budget comes with a sequence with helicopters - evidently, the people who made this movie couldn't afford to rent and film real helicopters in the air, so they are represented with incredibly cheesy computer-drafted images of them. Quite simply, this doesn't work at all, even though they tried to hide their fakeness by having these helicopter scenes in the dead of night.

One last thing: this is a production from the North American Pictures company, a Canadian company specializing in cheapo actioners filmed in the Czech Republic. I'd already seen two bad movies from them - Downdraft, and Crackerjack, which was another Die Hard rip-off. Now this. You know what they say: Three strikes, and you're out. I seriously doubt that I'll be renting anything from them again.

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See also: Point Blank, The Peacekeeper, Omega Doom

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