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Thursday, 1 August 2019

Retro Review: Daylight (1996)

Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Amy Brenneman, Viggo Mortensen, Dan Hedaya, Jay O' Sanders, Karen Young
Genre: Disaster Action 
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $159 million 

Plot: A truck containing dangerous chemicals explodes in the Holland Tunnel, trapping those New Yorkers not killed in the explosion. It's up to an ex-city Emergency Medical Services director to save the survivors 

'Stallone-Led Flick Not Quite Exactly Right, But There Should Have Been More To It'

Daylight flopped back during its release in 1996 and by watching it today, though this is not the sheer disaster of a movie as it was panned by critics at the time, and released during a wave of similarly formulaic films of this type in Volcano, Deep Impact, Twister, Independence Day, it is still, in most respects, a relative disappointment and there are clearly issues with it that should have been ironed out. 

A New York tunnel collapses and with that, several residents are trapped inside. A disgraced Emergency Services Chief named Kit is chosen to come to their aid. Stuff blows up, water is gushing out, everything falls apart - which is all exciting, sort of; it's a bit of a shame that by taking away the action sequences and effects, there is not much else left to it that is entertaining, and running at almost 2 hrs, the story is so bloated and hardly fleshed out very well. 

Let's face it, if it wasn't for Sylvester Stallone, who tries to provide some quality and keep us invested in the film, Daylight would not see the light of day, - pardon the expression. There are some suspense and tension, some explosions and things blowing up, but the story doesn't supplement these elements well enough. There just wasn't more here that was surprising that came left-field that I duly wanted out of it. 

Vanessa Bell Calloway's fake Carribean/French accent was terrible, the supporting cast is not notable with some of their characters resorting to shouting their lines to emphasise their roles in the movie, Viggo Mortensen bites the dust earlier on, meaning Daylight doesn't have an actual villain for Stallone and co to contend with, as does Slyvester Stallone's real-life son, Sage in an all-too-brief cameo. But for Kit, the lead paper-thin characters do not lend themselves well to the cause, as it seems he is the only character afforded with some depth, and neither of them are empathetic or likeable enough, and thus lack any personality for us to root for them. Amy Brenneman's Madeline makes Cliffhanger's Janine Turner's Jessie look 10 times better; the onscreen partnership of Brenneman and Stallone feels hokier and lacks any real reverence their characters might have towards one another. It basically retreads the same tropes as Cliffhanger, the other Sly Stallone movie - only this is nowhere as great and, in addition, it is far less entertaining as well. 

Rob Cohen was attempting to make a disaster action flick that tries to be serious, whilst emphasising that people can triumph against the odds. He takes what is an engaging and exciting idea - only to turn it into a mundane and at times jarring affair that is also too limited in scope. As each of the squabbling characters meets their own grisly fate, it's done in a way that one doesn't have any emotional investment towards either of them and the plot never becomes involving enough. With that in mind, I didn't care and it feels mechanical. The effects themselves are explosive and the action set pieces range from passable to good, yet they are anything but sizzling. 

Much like Judge Dredd was inferior to Demolition Man, Daylight is inferior to Renny Harlin's Cliffhanger: the set-ups of these films, when paired opposite one another, are remarkably similar in many respects -, & though ultimately Daylight does do some things that Cliffhanger did too, by contrast, this is not as effective and resounding, and it isn't long until it ensuingly runs out of ideas. 

Final Verdict:

That's not to say this isn't entirely unwatchable, but it steers too much on the formulaic and melodramatic side that I became tired of the story and my eyes wandered away from the screen several times, whilst the underdeveloped secondary characters are literally upstaged and eclipsed by star man, Stallone and of whom they are written in a way that nobody will care what happens to them. 

It has its shortcomings for sure and it's not bad; nevertheless, Daylight is yet again another one of those action-based thrillers that, with a bit more work in most areas, the end product would have been a whole lot more engaging, exceptional and serviceable.


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