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Overall Rating
1.77

Awesome: 4.6%
Worth A Look: 3.45%
Average: 8.05%
Pretty Bad: 32.18%
Total Crap51.72%

9 reviews, 33 user ratings



Stealth
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Needed to be a lot smarter or a lot dumber to succeed"
2 stars

If the new techno-thriller “Stealth” was either twice as smart or twice as stupid, it might have stood a chance at being a pretty good movie. If it had taken the former approach, it could have been an intriguing satirical examination of the lengths that the military-industrial complex will go to wage war without the pesky inconvenience of dead soldiers to get in the way of all the potential fun and profit. If it had taken the latter, it could have milked its inherently goofy premise for all that it was worth and transformed it into the kind of irresistibly goofy over-the-top spectacle not seen since Bruce Willis tried to save the world from a killer asteroid in “Armageddon”. Instead, the film chooses an uncomfortably bland, middle-of-the-road take on the material and it winds up never really going anywhere. What is worse is that there are occasional flashes of those two extreme approaches–just enough to make you realize that while it could have been worse, it certainly could have been a whole lot better.

Set in the not-too-distant future–a time far enough away for any number of technological advances but close enough that our military elite are still looking for Osama Bin Laden and listening to Incubus–the film opens with three of our best-and-brightest Navy pilots–rock-jawed plays-by-his-own-set-of-rules he-man Ben Gannon (Josh Lucas), feisty girl-who-is-just-one-of-the-guys-but-who-looks-better-than-any-of-them-in-a-gratuitous-bikini-scene Kara Wade (Jessica Biel) and wacky-and-philosophical-black-guy-who-would-be-less-wacky-and-philosophical-if-he-realized-he-was-in-the-kind-of-film-where-few-good-things-happen-to-the-wacky-and-philosophical-guy-in-the-supporting-role Henry Purcell (Jamie Foxx, who probably wishes that this particular title wasn’t his first film released since copping the Oscar for “Ray”)–as they complete their training for a new top-secret mission. After meeting with mission leader Capt. George Cummings (Sam Shepard) and being informed that a fourth plane is being added to their group, they arrive at their assigned aircraft carrier and learn that the fourth man is not a man after all–it is an advanced prototype for an unmanned AI-driven plane with the nickname of EDI (pronounced “Eddie”). The group isn’t thrilled and offers all the arguments about how a pilot can make the kind of judgement calls and moral decisions that a machine simply can’t. However, zillions have been sunk into the project and Cummings insists on testing it out.

While on their first training maneuver with EDI, the group is diverted to Rangoon to level a building holding numerous terrorist leaders. Though it seems an impossible mission, EDI figures out a way to pull it off and Gannon gets to implode the building and kill all the bad guys. (Presumably, all the innocent people that we saw earlier on the street got away unscathed–the movie never gets around to telling us one way or another.) During the return to the carrier, EDI is struck by a freak bolt of lightning that hot-wires his circuits so that he begins to accumulate information at an astonishing rate, including stuff he isn’t supposed to have. (We learn he has been downloading songs from the Internet. How many? “All of them”–the closest thing to an authentic terror line you are likely to hear in a major-studio release this year.) Ben, Henry and Kara are sent off to Thailand for some R&R (cue the aforementioned bikini shot)–where we learn, among other things, that lone wolf Ben is really in love with Kara (in a development so sudden that it feels as if an entire reel has gone missing) but doesn’t want to say anything for fear of ruining her chances for advancement–while EDI is being repaired.

Before too long, they are called back into action to take out a target in one of those fictional countries so beloved by filmmakers and Cummings orders that EDI be sent out with them. Unfortunately, the machine decides to act on his own–not only does he disobey orders, he hacks into a film of potential attack scenarios and decides to carry them out on his own. The other team members attempt to bring him in with tragic results–Henry encounters a fate typical to most sidekicks, Kara is shot down over North Korea and Ben is forced to try to bring the plane in himself without getting shot down or running out of fuel–while Cummings tries to cover things up no matter what the cost.

See what I mean about potential approaches? On the one hand, the story could have been tweaked into a caustic satire of the contemporary military mindset as well as an examination of the consequences of putting the lives of billions in the hands of allegedly foolproof machines. This was something that Stanley Kubrick did to great effect in his still-devastating “Dr. Strangelove” but, aside from a few visual homages (as well as a couple to Kubrick’s “2001,” another work pitting man against a malfunctioning machine), “Stealth” never develops the nerve to tackle such potentially provocative material. Instead, it comes closer to the recruitment-ad approach of “Top Gun” in which the heroes are bold and studly, the heroines can hold their own while looking great in their form-fitting flight suits and the only problems come from a couple of bad apples that are easily dealt with. (It should come as no surprise that the Department of Defense did participate fully in the production of “Stealth,” providing technical assistance as well as planes and carriers.)

On the other hand, the essential premise of the film is wonky enough that it could have been transformed into the exercise in knowingly goofball excess that the incessant trailers have suggested. And yet, aside from a few fluky lines of dialogue here and there (including such gems as “It has no heart but it sure can fly,” “We’ve got a nuclear crisis on our hands” and “Pardon my C-cup”) and the occasional inexplicable ingredient (the first ten minutes alone feature one club scene and a hot babe informing us that she has to go “pee-pee”), “Stealth” plays thing disappointingly straight. Even the airborne stunts–with the single exception of an entertaining sequence in which EDI takes out a refueling ship to prevent Ben from filling up–have a ho-hum quality about them–they are things that we have seen many times before in many different technothrillers and this film brings precious little that is new to the party. This is especially disappointing when you consider that “Stealth” was directed by Rob Cohen, whose previous films “The Fast and the Furious” and “XXX” both reveled in astonishing (and astonishingly implausible) imagery and written by W.D. Richter, who too-infrequent work as a director (“The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai”) and writer (“Slither,” “Big Trouble in Little China” and the Phillip Kaufman version of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”)has demonstrated an appealingly bent approach to genre conventions. How could the teaming of two such people come up with something as staid as “Stealth”?

Recently, I got the chance to speak to Rob Cohen and I think I have the answer. According to him, the original screenplay that Richter wrote took a weirder and more satirical approach to the storyline–he even compared it in parts to “Buckaroo Banzai”. Once Cohen signed on, however, he decided that a more straightforward approach was required and the script underwent, by his count, at least 36 additional drafts by other writers (not including Richter) and Cohen himself until they came up with the film now in release. Well, the resulting film certainly isn’t “Buckaroo Banzai,” but it isn’t much of anything else either.

“Stealth” has a number of things going for it–it is certainly a good-looking film and the cast is filled with appealing actors–but not enough to make up for the sense that it doesn’t come close to living up (or down, depending on your point-of-view) to its promise. Instead, it just feels like a once-provocative premise that has been gradually watered down to such an extent that retains almost none of its original flavor. It will probably make some money and some people may even get a little bit of a kick out of it–at least it isn’t as bad as “The Island”–but considering what it could and should have been, “Stealth” qualifies as a disappointment

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=12659&reviewer=389
originally posted: 07/29/05 14:02:58
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User Comments

8/13/08 Shaun Wallner This movie has some great scenes in it. 5 stars
6/16/07 al smith leave your brain at the door and you will have a good time 4 stars
4/19/07 Stevo UK As pleasurable as a meteor strike to the balls. 1 stars
2/23/07 David Pollastrini Jessica Biel is hot! 2 stars
9/30/06 Stanley Thai Filled with great action scenes and a good plot. Come on people, where's the love? 3 stars
7/28/06 drydock54321 do you really think he could have found her from the air and all the landscape. 2 stars
7/27/06 Alonso Bonilla bleak, boring, and just plain stupid, people, do not watch this movie! 1 stars
2/06/06 cody a pretty good action flick, with edge seat action scenes! fun time 4 stars
12/29/05 tony Not even close. This movie is without a doubt one of the worst movies in hollywood! 1 stars
12/22/05 tina mateer boring!!! If it did not cost so much to go see, would of left right away 1 stars
12/18/05 J.D. Pittman III Come on people! You know that movie was tight! 5 stars
12/05/05 Carolyn good explosions and sfx, nice eye candy worth a rental 3 stars
11/29/05 JH Oh Dear God. Make It Stop. Killer Tomatos was better. 1 stars
11/28/05 ELI Planes fall down go BOOM! That's a pretty complex plot! Eh, the planes looked nice 2 stars
11/27/05 Evil Wolfie The action was nice looking..... at least. 3 stars
11/25/05 shaun wallner i thought this movie was pretty good but i didnt like the music 2 stars
11/23/05 Narcs Cool planes.. but too fake and video game oriented. 3 stars
11/14/05 Lanie Richardson Not the best movie... but I liked it. 4 stars
10/12/05 Josh Swanson Not the greatest movie, but Jessica Biel ain't bad on the eyes. 2 stars
10/05/05 Ava Rice Jessica Biel thinks her shit don't stink; otherwise film coulda been 90% more watchable. 3 stars
10/03/05 poo it's so bad it's funny. good for a larf. 2 stars
9/17/05 Green Gremlin Makes "Top Gun" look like "Saving Private Ryan" !!! 2 stars
9/14/05 Pinkline Jones Cohens couldn't direct a turd down a Toto toilet 1 stars
9/14/05 Jonathon Holmes Foxx should be ashamed of himself 1 stars
9/12/05 Summer 2 hours too long! 2 stars
8/08/05 E Well, this is quite underrated 5 stars
8/08/05 ^ZuLu^ stereotypes - sfx - sfx - forseeable - stupid ending - yawn 1 stars
8/05/05 Jake Shocker A Thriller. 5 stars
8/01/05 KingNeutron Good FX, ridiculous dialogue, ridiculous plotline. 2 stars
7/31/05 ClaranceTheCobra If Jessica Biel Had balls, I'd probably lick 'em 2 stars
7/31/05 Naka Nope! 1 stars
7/27/05 Ice-T too heavy on the effects and blur 3 stars
7/26/05 WilliamPrice standard zoom and boom 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  29-Jul-2005 (PG-13)
  DVD: 15-Nov-2005

UK
  N/A

Australia
  08-Sep-2005


Directed by
  Rob Cohen

Written by
  W.D. Richter

Cast
  Josh Lucas
  Jessica Biel
  Jamie Foxx
  Sam Shepard
  Joe Morton
  Richard Roxburgh



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