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Interceptor
(1993)

Director: Michael Cohn  
Cast:
Andrew Divoff, Jurgen Prochnow, Elizabeth Morehead


When one brings up the subjects of movies and the motion picture industries, one will inevitably come up with a lot of truths about both of those subjects. Truths about certain things that come up time and again. One of those truths can be seen in a certain saying, one that's also used for times when the subject is not movies or the motion picture industry. That saying is, "Success has many fathers, failure is a bastard." Just think about it for a little bit, and you'll see what I mean. Whenever there's a movie that succeeds, you'll often see many people connected to that movie who will claim they made a valuable contribution into the making of that movie. And when a movie fails, or some other filmmaking disaster like a studio going under, you'll find that nobody wants to take credit. But I think that when it comes to film and the motion picture industry, there is another truth that can be summed up in a quote similar to the one I quoted above. And that saying would be, "Success has many children." I don't think it would take you long to think of many examples of that when it comes to filmmaking. If you look at filmmaking across the many decades since its start, you will very often find that when someone makes a film that makes a decent amount of money, you will find that not long afterwards someone else will be "inspired" by the success of that film - inspired enough that they will make their own movie, a movie that will have some striking similarities to that first movie. And it just doesn't stop with one person getting inspiration - other people in the movie industry will make their own inspirations, and will keep making them as long as these new movies make money.

The list of movies that have inspired other movies is an endless one. For example, the 1972 mega hit The Poseidon Adventure undoubtedly inspired Hollywood to churn out a number of other disaster movies over the next ten years, such as Earthquake and Meteor. A few years after The Poseidon Adventure, the even greater mega hit Jaws inspired many movie producers (mainly those who made low budget movies) to make their own killer-animal-on-the-loose movies, ranging from Grizzly to Piranha. Then when Star Wars hit screens in 1977, I don't think I have to tell you about all the rip-offs it inspired. (Even George Lucas himself ripped off some ideas from his own movie when he later made Willow.) One "inspiring" movie I would like to talk a little about is Die Hard. I am sure you have some knowledge of the movies it has inspired, from big-budget efforts like Under Siege to low budget efforts like Point Blank. The inspiration seems to have run its course, but the question is why did Die Hard inspire so many copycats? Several reasons, I think. Of course, the fact that most viewers loved the original movie is the main reason, but why did so many viewers love the movie? Well, the idea of an ordinary man taking on and overcoming professional bad guys probably pleased the ordinary men and women in the audience. Even when the rip-offs used protagonists who were better trained (like in The Peacekeeper), the idea of a hero who could overcome great evil being attempted by colorful bad guys (a noteworthy ingredient) would be greatly appealing to viewers.

We've had Die Hard rip-offs taking place in all sorts of places: ships (Under Siege, Chain Of Command), trains (Under Siege 2), shopping malls (Point Blank and Paul Blart: Mall Cop), oil rigs (Blast), and missile silos (The Peacekeeper), among other places. In fact, Interceptorany location with a big enough area and enough places for a protagonist to hide has been fair game. Locations smaller than those I listed are very unlikely to be used by the rip-off artists. However, I can name a couple that used a much smaller location, that location being an airplane. Your first thought may be to think the use of an airplane as a Die Hard location to be ridiculous. But the Harrison Ford movie Air Force One did it. And so did Interceptor, the movie I'm reviewing here. Though when you think about the spacious and room-filled Air Force One in the movie of the same name, you might wonder if Interceptor managed to pull it off when you read its plot description. Let me tell it to you: Interceptor starts off at an American Air Force base in Turkey, where we are introduced to Captain Christopher Winfield (Divoff, Wishmaster). He is assigned to pilot a stealth fighter equipped with an experimental virtual reality guidance system. It doesn't take long during the test flight where something goes wrong with the system and the plane goes out of control, forcing Winfield to eject from the plane before it crashes. Though Winfield subsequently reports that it was the guidance system's fault, there is no evidence of this, and Winfield is ordered back to America to attend an evaluation panel. He hitches a ride on a C5 cargo plane carrying two stealth fighters in its interior, and meets with Major Janet Morgan (Morehead, One World), the commanding officer of the flight. Several hours into the flight, Winfield, Morgan, and the rest of the airplane's crew get a nasty surprise - a group of terrorists headed by one fellow known simply as "Phillips" (Prochnow, Das Boot) ingeniously board the flying plane and take over, intending to deliver the valuable cargo to some other destination.

From what I have just told you, you have probably guessed that subsequently the character of Winfield takes it upon himself to save the day and starts to pick off each terrorist one by one, just like what happened in Die Hard. You are correct, of course. There are some obvious differences along the way, naturally, but from this point on the basic inspiration Interceptor follows is the Bruce Willis movie. Though there are some things about the execution of Interceptor that I wish had been more inspired. Let me start off with the first thirty or so minutes of the movie. This opening of the movie, an entire third of the total running time, leaves a lot to be desired. Things start off with that experiment I told you about, which was clearly intended to start things off with a little action. But even when the plane goes out of control, this whole sequence feels surprisingly boring. It could have been because of the obvious use of stock footage, some of it clearly videotaped footage transferred to film. (Some use of stock footage later in the movie, shot with film, is covered with dirt and lacks the sharpness of the surrounding newly shot footage, so it also sticks out like a sore thumb.) It could have also been because of the claustrophobic direction of the sequence, with both the control tower and cockpit footage shot so close to the camera that it's hard to get a feel of things. It could also have been because of the use of computer graphics showing us what Winfield sees in his VR goggles. It's supposed to be high tech, but it looks cheap, and suggests that the production didn't have the money to film a real point of view from a real airplane, or even film the airplane from another following airplane.

The next few scenes also are underwhelming, but for other reasons. We learn nothing about Winfield, except that he is divorced and has two children living with his ex-wife, and he has such little dialogue that Divoff isn't able to give him any kind of colorful personality. Even when the Major Morgan character comes into the movie and interacts with Winfield a couple of times, there are no sparks or interest to be seen. The movie continues along its dull path until around the thirty-five minute mark, when the terrorists enter and seize control of the plane. It's (thankfully) here that the movie gets a much-needed shot of adrenaline, and things pick up a considerable amount of pace and become interesting to watch. You might be asking questions like how on earth could terrorists could board a military cargo plane 30,000 feet in the air, or how after the terrorists take over the plane, Winfield is able to keep hidden and pick them off one by one. I won't spoil things by telling you the answers, though I will say that the screenwriters manage to depict these things in a way that had me thinking, "Yeah, I guess that could happen," as well as, "Hey, this is pretty interesting." That last thought also went through my head when I saw various things that the protagonist subsequently does to battle the terrorists. Although Winfield may be weak on personality, he is a pretty resourceful hero, and in the confined space of the airplane he shows the terrorists that he is no pushover. This of course leads to several action sequences, and for the most part they are pretty well done. Because of the budget and the confined space they may not be visually spectacular, but all the same they have some excitement and a few original touches making some of the terrorists' deaths unlike what you've seen in other Die Hard rip-offs before. As I said, the action in this middle stretch of the movie is generally well done, but there are still some problems here. Between each action sequence, there's little feeling of building tension or that time is running out. A constant feeling of struggle and desperateness would have stopped the feeling of things slowing down when the bullets aren't flying.

One thing that most Die Hard rip-offs have is a colorful villain, and some effort was made to make Prochnow's antagonist character memorable. The movie is obviously aping Die Hard's German Hans Gruber character, not just by casting a German actor in the role, but by having Prochnow reading his lines in the same calm and collected way that Alan Rickman did. Though Prochnow won't make anyone forget Rickman, he is cool and ruthless enough to be a (marginally) acceptable villain. And he comes off a lot better than many of the other people in the cast. Morehead has a pretty thankless role as the token love interest, not really given any time to make some serious romantic sparks with Divoff, and not really given much more time to do anything else that's memorable. It's not a surprise that Morehead's performance is kind of underwhelming. Still, when most people watch a direct to video rip-off of Die Hard, they are looking more for action and excitement than anything else. And as I said earlier, the movie does have a good share of action and excitement, for the most part at least. The climatic action sequence - which is of course a mano-a-mano duel between the protagonist and the terrorist leader - does have the two characters battling it out in a way unlike any other climaxes found in Die Hard rip-offs. However, it is directed and edited so poorly, I couldn't figure out exactly how the terrorist leader is (no surprise) dispatched. The whole sequence is kind of a letdown after the effective thrills and action that preceded it. If the sequence had been better directed and edited, I think I would have given Interceptor a "thumbs up" with no hesitation. A marginal "thumbs up", perhaps, but a "thumbs up" all the same. But as it is, my thumb is kind of hesitant to point up on its own, and I can only point it up with adding the condition that you should only watch it with a tolerant and forgiving mood. And as I sit here thinking more and more about how disappointing I found the movie's payoff after sitting through the movie's ample shortcomings, make that a very tolerant and forgiving mood.

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See also: Act Of War, Lethal Tender, Point Blank

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