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Executive Target
(1996)
 

Director:Joseph Merhi                       
Cast:
Michael Madsen, Keith David, Roy Scheider


Though death and taxes may be the only things you can count on 100%, P.M. movies these days almost have that high of a rate on the chance to entertain. This one is no exception. Though it isn't up to their classics like Sweeper, Rage, and Last Man Standing, this has more than enough car chases, shootouts, guns blazing, and broken glass to make a rental worth while.

Certainly, it gets off to a great big start. We have a bus load of prisoners driving through L.A. that has its journey interrupted by two (brand new) cars crashing nearby. Then a big semi collides with the bus, flipping it onto its side. Two gunmen enter the wreckage to get the bewildered former stunt car driver Nick (Madsen), and machine gun the other prisoners in the bus. Then there's a shootout between the bad guys and the police, resulting in broken glass, explosions, and a significant body count. During the confusion, Nick breaks from his rescuers and escapes in a sports car, with half the L.A.P.D. cops cars after him as well as two of his would-be rescuers. Using his driving skills, Nick manages to have all the cops on his tail smash into each other or fly in the air and twist around and crash by driving onto ramps hidden behind other cars. All this happens in the first 20 minutes!

Actually, there is also some setup before all of this in the first few minutes. The President of the United States (Scheider - who was also the President in The Peacekeeper) has made the decision to cut spending for "Star Wars" and other military projects, refusing to support elitist groups anymore. Though this has the support of the public, many military personal are upset on this threat to their jobs. It has also irked a radio talk-show host - not named, but obviously supposed to be Rush Limbaugh - protesting the President's decision to give money to "deadbeats" and later complaining that the President's motorcade is interrupting "rush hour". P.M. movies have long had an anti-Republican streak, and this one is no exception. Especially when you see that the filmmakers have given the President the name of Carleton - not very subtle.

Nick finds out how far this resentment is growing when later that night he goes to the house of his estranged wife (Kathy Christopherson), and finds here being taken hostage by the people who broke him out. Captured, the villains threaten to kill Nick's wife unless he comes with them and complies with them. Oh dear, five minutes without action - time to bring in some stupid cops who come into the house looking for Nick yet get blown away by the bad guys.

Nick and his wife are taken to a secret underground military base, where they meet Lamar (David), who has been hired by several military bigwigs. Under threat of his wife's death, Nick is forced to be the getaway driver for two bank robberies (resulting in more car chases, guns blazing, broken glass, and body counts). Then Nick finds out that these robberies have been small potatoes for what Lamar has really been hired to do - kidnap President Carleton during his visit to L.A. Nick must now decide if he'll cooperate, refuse....or do something unexpected.

Okay, the plot is a bit thin in the middle - essentially nothing but action and car chases. So what? - the action scenes are good and plentiful, and a lot of the budget went for ammunition and destroying brand-new cars - you won't see any clunkers get smashed here. One fault I will admit about the action scenes is with the chases - there are too many close-up shots of the fast-traveling cars, sometimes making it hard to make sense of it all. As well, it is strange that the climatic action scene is shorter than the preceding action scenes and concludes in a disappointing manner. It is also strange that the most spectacular action scene is reserved for the second-to-the-last scene and not the climax.

The cast give passable B-movie performances, with the exception of David, who does a good job as the movie's villain. He's also one of the few black villains to be seen in a movie. David's character Lamar, instead of being an insane and cruel maniac, is an intelligent and logical leader. Ruthless, yes, but is smart enough to leave the dirty work to others. It turns out that Lamar's motive for joining the conspiracy is nothing to do with power, but for money, pure and simple. His character is interesting enough that it's too bad that the final scene between him and Nick is completed in a matter of seconds. Maybe it was done that way because in a meeting of minds, Lamar would clearly knock Nick sideways with his philosophies.

I doubt, though, that anyone renting this movie would be overly concerned with such issues. They are probably wanting to simply know if this is worth renting or not. Why yes; I enjoyed the movie a lot, flaws and all. It's funny how action movies that are flawed can still be entertaining by just having enough well-done action. The movie could be compared to a roller-coaster ride, with the flaws being the areas on the track where the car moves slowly. Yet the dips and twists more than make up for those areas. Hang on!

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See also: The Silencers, The Sender, Hot Boyz

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