Crash Point Zero
½*/**** Image D Sound C Extras B
starring Treat Williams, Hannes Jaenicke, John Beck, Susan Blakely
screenplay by Steve Latshaw
directed by Jay Andrews
by Walter Chaw Beginning with stock footage of mountain climbing and a wholly unexpected (and unwelcome) reference to Hudson Hawk, Extreme Limits (formerly Crash Point Zero) is a micro-budgeted neo-Corman knock-off that boasts of an admirably irresponsible body count and a script so ludicrous that, once it's deadened your senses (after about five minutes), it actually gets sort of funny. In fact, I don't remember the last time I've laughed as long and as well as when a man gets mauled by a grizzly that is obviously some poor schmo in a bear suit, pinwheeling his arms when he gets struck by a flashlight.
Extreme Limits concerns itself with some nonsense about a thought-wave magnifier invented by the father of the induction coil, Nicola Tesla. A spool of copper wire with headphones in an old suitcase ("It's small enough to carry in a travel bag, and heavy enough...to end the world!"), Tesla's Box is discovered hidden away in a bat cave somewhere in snowy Canada. Soon, euro-trash terrorists try to steal the doomsday device, causing the crash of a Leer jet into the snowy Canadian Rockies and leading to a fight for survival amongst bearded scientist/archaeologist Hunter (John Beck), his plucky daughter Nadia (Julie St. Claire), his insufferably long-winded love interest Barbara (Susan Blakely), and his arch-nemesis Beck (Hannes Jaenicke). Meanwhile, wisecracking CIA agent Jason (Treat Williams) and his wisecracking sidekick, Alan (Richard Riehle, who is given the dumbest exit line since Kiefer's "cover me" from Young Guns), rush to try to keep the doohickey from falling into the wrong hands.
There's a good reason that Extreme Limits resembles Cliffhanger, The Long Kiss Goodnight, and Narrow Margin: outtakes from those films were used for every special-effects shot and nearly every exterior of Extreme Limits. The excessive use of these leftovers, edited together willy-nilly, also explains the wildly divergent quality of the visuals (ranging from television-level and less to the enhanced digital imagery of the newer material), and the hilariously disjointed script, which tries desperately to cobble together explanations for how an avalanche, train chase, helicopter shoot-out, mid-air plane linkage, semi-truck mayhem, bear attack, and Alive scenario belong in the same film. And if Extreme Limits resembles last year's Vertical Limit, that's because, like pornography, the direct-to-video market (and particularly projects helmed by Jim Wynorski (a.k.a. Jay Andrews, Arch Stanton, and Noble Henry)) will jump to ape any moderately successful mainstream Hollywood film. There is not, however, a good reason why this film reminds of 1997's Air Force One and The Edge.
Extreme Limits is awful by any ordinary measure. It is possessed of truly terrible dialogue ("...Not while there's a bear shitting in these very woods!"), little sense of pace, performances that range from awful (everyone except for Treat Williams) to bemused (Treat Williams), and a plot that can be politely described as "incoherent." The film's saving grace is that it's so wilfully slipshod that it's really pretty enjoyable in a junk appreciation sort of way--best viewed, one suspects, inebriated and in the company of inebriated friends.
The 1.85:1 anamorphic video transfer on Fox Video's DVD release of Extreme Limits is difficult to judge because of the source material's schizophrenic nature. Scenes shot fresh for the film are for the most part adequate, though possessing a flat quality and a disturbing amount of light and colour bleed. The stock footage ranges anywhere from grainy to wretched, leading not only to distracting jolts as the film shifts from one value to the next, but also to a busload of continuity errors ranging from the lightly comical (in an early plane hijack sequence, the snow shuts on and off from moment to moment), to the fall-out-of-the-chair hysterical (the final explosion sequences have our heroes in a red Ford Taurus in one shot and a late model blue Chrysler in the next). A Dolby Digital 5.1 soundmix gets a mild rumbling workout during a terrible-looking avalanche and from a bridge explosion lifted in its entirety from Renny Harlin's The Long Kiss Goodnight. The dialogue is clear and easy to understand--not necessarily a good thing.
Director "Andrews," along with Julie St. Claire and cinematographer Andrea Rossotto, offer a feature-length commentary that, like Wynorski's other feature commentaries, is bristling with self-deprecating wit and something that sounds suspiciously like joy in the art of filmmaking. A latter day hack-and-paste Ed Wood, he is absurdly prolific (he makes four films a year, give or take) and unflaggingly affectionate towards his tiny masterpieces of bad formula knock-off cinema. Listening to the yak-track is great fun and enhances enjoyment of Extreme Limits immeasurably--it might be worth a rental of this travesty to hear the director's constant needling of his increasingly-flustered bimbo star for her nixing of a steamy shower scene.
A trailer, director and cast filmographies, and 18-image photo gallery round out the disc. Originally published: August 26, 2001.