- The Washington Times - Friday, November 29, 2002

"Extreme Ops" is self-consciously atrocious. As long as you know that going in, this adrenaline junkie's cinematic fix could serve as an amusing, mercifully short diversion.
That is the most generous thing to be said of this nonmovie, a boring and lifeless window into the subculture of "extreme sports" such as snowboarding and white-water kayaking.
The stunts are amateurishly edited. The acting is unintentionally funny. The dialogue would have trouble engaging a smart fifth-grader.
And the "plot." One hesitates to use such a word to describe the used tissue of a story, unpromisingly authored by first-time screenwriter Michael Zaidan, that accompanies the daredevil action scenes. The kind of action, dude, that's, like, so rad.
Briefly, a derring-do crew of short-filmmakers heads to the Austrian Alps to make a TV commercial for a Japanese digital camera company that captures snowboarders outpacing an avalanche.
They wind up blowing the cover of a buffoonish Serbian war criminal in hiding the ridiculously named Slobavan Pavle (Klaus Lowitsch). That's Slobavan, only a couple letters away from Slobodan, as in Slobodan Milosevic.
Sophisticated reader, can you be counted on to apprehend such a subtle hint? Could Osami or Sadaan be far behind?
To be fair, "Extreme Ops" does feature some mildly exciting footage of snowboard stuntmen negotiating vertiginously steep slopes and rumbling avalanches.
It's not breathtaking by any means, but it's preferable to enduring the film's paltry excuse for human "drama," with the actors set against bleedingly obvious blue-screen imaging.
One of the most unfortunate things about "Extreme Ops" is the way it wastes fine talent. Playing Ian, the TV crew's unflappably suave director, is Rufus Sewell, a British actor who performed opposite Emma Thompson in "Cold Comfort Farm" and starred in the BBC adaptation of "Middlemarch."
Another Briton, Rupert Graves, sporting a decent American accent, portrays Jeffrey, the team's pampered prima donna producer. Mr. Graves has been seen most recently on the Broadway stage, appearing this year in "The Elephant Man."
Both actors far outclass this juvenile movie, and one hopes they were paid handsomely for demeaning themselves.
The rest of the cast is an embarrassment: They belong on Saturday-morning television.
There's the startlingly gaunt Bridgette Wilson-Sampras (wife of tennis champ Pete Sampras) as Chloe, a conventional gold medalist downhill skier who takes on the perilous Alpine slopes.
Her role as Adam Sandler's teacher in "Billy Madison" looks inspiring by comparison.
Joe Absolom, a young British actor, and Jana Pallaske, a German making her American film debut, play Silo and Kittie, two devil-may-care snowboard jockeys. If either is capable of uttering words with more than one syllable, you'd never know it after seeing this movie.
Canadian director Christian Duguay personally tackled much of the on-slope steadicam work, and, as a former TV commercial director, apparently modeled the Ian character after himself.
Mr. Duguay should stick to TV ads. None of the characters is worth paying attention to for more than 30 seconds: They are merely human props for what should have been an ESPN documentary.
The film obviously is targeted to male teenagers, what with its constantly booming electronic house music and ham-handed attempts at sexual humor (such as a quick truth-or-dare kiss between Miss Wilson-Sampras and Miss Pallaske).
Still, "Extreme Ops" is an insult even to that young, skittishly hormonal demographic.

*
TITLE: "Extreme Ops"
RATING: PG-13 (occasional profanity, fleeting comical nudity)
CREDITS: Directed by Christian Duguay
RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes
MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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