What does it take to make a successful movie? Maybe it just needs some beautiful scenery, a lot of high cliffs, and several gigantic explosions. That's what the makers of Vertical Limit are hoping, and, for the most part, are correct. Plot and script not included.
Vertical Limit stars fluctuating Chris O'Donnell and rising star Robin Tunney. O'Donnell, who hasn't made much after the embarrassing Batman and Robin, is trying once again to become the action hero, and if he sticks with movies like this he might do okay. Tunney, a more variable actress, brings some charisma to the screen, and was a joy to watch, even if she doesn't do that much. There are several other recognizable faces, such as Bill Paxton, but it still is a B-grade cast.
The plot and script work interchangeably to bog the movie down, but not as considerably as I had been told. There are some dumb lines and major plot holes, but those are mainly covered up by some exciting action scenes. I do think that a lot of these types of movies try to hard to have good plots, and end up having worse ones. Vertical Limit does have a bad guy in a sense (nothing like Cliffhanger though), which just adds another crappy back story. Oh well.
The movie is all about action scenes and Vertical Limit does have some very suspenseful ones. The opening sequence is by far one of the better scenes of the movie, as it sets the stage much like Cliffhanger did several years earlier. There are some other moments, such as when a climber is trying to help another back over a cliff, but the edge falls away. There are also some dumb ones, like when Chris O'Donnell runs, jumps, and grabs a hold of a cliff a long distance away, without ripping his arms out of his sockets. First off, they don't explain why there is suddenly a cliff there (wouldn't they have known about it?), and second, the scene just makes the movie seem silly, even if, for the most part, it is quite believable.
There are two things that bugged me most more than the choppy acting and script... They are the nitro and the slow scenes put in between each action scene. The nitro, right off the bat, is not that big of a deal, but still worth griping about. Why would the Pakistani have such "high tech" explosives? Why would it explode when leaking out at one point and require a detonator at another? Wouldn't the climbers have access to more controllable explosives, like TNT?
Second, the slow scenes are just crap. I know that the main characters are going to survive so I don't really care how emotionally attached I get to them. I want to see action, and while there is a lot of action, the movie fluctuates because the characters for some reason always have time to sit down and talk about something. There is a deadline and these stupid people are sitting around and talking! The scenes didn't do anything but bog down the film.
There are a lot of flaws with Vertical Limit but it does have a lot of high quality action sequences that make it worth seeing. Anyone who goes to this movie isn't expecting anything more, and that's what we get. It isn't Cliffhanger, but it is a more subdued, more realistic action thriller with some explosive qualities.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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