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Friday, 8 May 2020

Retro Review: Drop Zone (1994)

Drop Zone
Cast: Wesley Snipes, Gary Busey, Yancy Butler, Michael Jeter
Genre: Action Thriller
U.S Box Office Gross: over $28 million

Plot: A tough cop teams up with a professional skydiver to capture a renegade computer hacker on the run from the law

'Drop It Like It's... Uh, I dunno, But I Liked It'

1994's Drop Zone was Wesley Snipes' second or be it third major crack as an action movie star, following on from roles as the villain, Simon Phoenix opposite Slyvester Stallone in Demolition Man and as a cop in Passenger 57, although Drop Zone falls more in line with Passenger 57, as opposed to the sci-fi former. It went toe- to- toe with the similarly-themed, Terminal Velocity, only it didn't fare as well as its counterpart/rival in the box office, by comparison. Directed by the man behind the 70's classic, Saturday Night Fever, this action-thriller sees U.S Marshall, Pete Nessip assigned in escorting a prisoner named Earl to jail. 

Yet the same flight that Pete and Earl are both on gets hijacked by parachuting terrorists led by former DEA Agent Gary Busey's T.Y, who have staged a prison break on a commercial 747 plane in an attempt to rescue Earl; Pete digs deep in finding out who was behind the hijacking and the reasons for it and his investigation leads him to a female skydiving crew member: the reformed Jess, who used to be part of T.Y's faction, and both her and Pete, put their differences aside and work together to capture T.Y. 

Drop Zone may not be very deep or suspenseful, nor is it neither focused on the realism of skydiving and its extreme sport culture, but in an action B-movie sense, this is a fun little film that doesn't waste any time dragging out the details, but focus on getting as much done as possible in a small package. It also shows Wesley Snipes being his bad-ass self and displaying his ever-impressive martial arts skills; I always enjoy seeing him kicking people in his action movies, be it, Passenger 57, Demolition Man, Blade, it makes one wonder what a breath of fresh air he would have been alongside other action movie stars, Schwarzenneger, Stallone, Jackie Chan, Steven Segal, Dolph Lundgren, Jean-Claude Van Damme, had Wesley Snipes fully gone down that route and was moulded as an action star. That, and given the lack of Black action movie stars, Snipes was arguably and probably Hollywood's best chance on the commercial, blockbuster front for that. 

Whilst I would have preferred to see more action set pieces and scenes, the action in Drop Zone fares all right. Snipes and Yancy Butler make for an unexpected male/female action film duo. Butler, in particular, takes on a more robust and slightly weighty role, in stark contrast to the one in John Woo's Hard Target opposite, or be it alongside Jean-Claude Van Damme; instead of hiding behind the hero, here Butler's Jessie takes on the criminals, & one who is a tough chick to crack. She of whom also has a one-on-one girl vs girl fight against Claire Stansfield's Kara, which the fight wasn't too bad itself. Gary Busey is as over-the-top here as he was in Under Siege in a similar role as the main antagonist, the snarling T.Y. The cast also includes The Cosby Show's Malcolm Jamal Warner in a short-lived role, rounded up by other B-movie performers, Michael Jeter (The Fisher King) as a creepy computer hacker criminal that is busted out of prison, Claire Stansfield and the heavily- tattooed Robert LaSardo, who is no stranger to playing bad guys on the big screen.

The plotline is silly and daft, and occasionally tone-deaf but as an action thriller that doesn't take itself way too seriously, it still managed to keep me peeled. The high- flying stunts, whilst they aren't anything we haven't seen elsewhere, it's good to have them in here because otherwise, it would have made the film less appealing and entertaining to sit through. Drop Zone is far-fetched as skydiving action flicks go, but with its 'Die Hard' set in the sky setting, it survives with a curious B-movie cast and its assortment of characters, a leave- your- brain- at- the- door escapist feel, some entertaining action set pieces that include some cool skydiving scenes, & one that takes place in a public toilet, Wesley Snipes's onscreen kills, a mixture of gunplay sequences and hand-to-hand combat and a story that I enjoyed and got into more as events unfold and the twists were thrown in. As the film went on, the more I was drawn towards the storyline, as well as the protagonists in Snipes and Butler. 

Final Verdict:

Much like with Point of No Return and Stakeout, here director John Badham goes loud, big and fast in the Speed, Die Hard sense, mixed in with a bit of skydiving by commanding the pace of the film & keeping me invested in it; and with that, Drop Zone is an overly decent action thriller that, whilst it could have done and had, even more, to make it a far better movie, it still delivered on its intentions and alas, this was still a nice little treat to see. 

I liked this one a lot. 


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