Directed by Rob Cohen
Sylvester Stallone stars as disgraced former New York City EMS Chief Kit Latura who has to go in and save people trapped in the Holland Tunnel. Jewel thieves fleeing the police collided with and detonated a truck hauling illegal toxic waste. The resulting explosion collapses both ends of the tunnel. With time running out because the city assumes there are no survivors, Kit must guide the people that are trapped to safety before they run out of time. Sometimes plots don’t sound preposterous until you write them down. Then again this is an action movie and the plots tend to be like that.
It’s an early film from the guy that directed the first Fast and the Furious movie. He really does a great job with the action as well as the character development here. This is a survival action disaster film and the characters are more developed than usual. He doesn’t skimp on the tension and excitement and manages to develop all the characters enough so that you care what happens to them.
The characters are struggling to survive and stumbling along the way based on their limited knowledge. To make things harder the powers that be decided there was no chance that they could have survived and decide to re-open the tunnel forcing them to make desperate attempts to save their lives as they inch closer and closer to the surface. People die along the way, but as said earlier the characters are built up well enough that you care about them and they don’t feel disposable.
While more rounded than most in this type of movie, the characters here are the usual assortment of stock characters with damaged pasts and different personalities and backgrounds. They were written with an eye towards creating tension so the only problem aren’t the dangers caused by the tunnel disaster.
It’s a pretty solid movie and some of Stallone‘s best acting work from the 90s. Stallone is a talented actor whether you believe it or not. Even though he is most closely associated with action roles, he’s turned in some good work over the years. Rocky. First Blood (though the later films bastardized the Rambo character). Cop Land. That’s to name just a few. He turns in some quality work here as well.
I heard a story that Stallone was so sick of directors asking him to take his shirt off in action movies he had it WRITTEN INTO HIS CONTRACT here that he would wear his shirt for the whole film. I’m not sure how true this is but it is an entertaining story. I also recall reading at one point when this movie came out that Sylvester Stallone said he would not do any more action movies because he had just made the ultimate action film. That turned out to be a lie and I’m glad it was. He’s produced some real gems since this movie.
The one death that gets me the most though is that of transit cop George Tyrell (Stan Shaw). And obviously it’s meant to do that. For one I like the actor. I’ve seen him in stuff for decades and I always pull for his characters. Plus, what they shown of the relationship between him and his girlfriend Grace (Vanessa Bell Calloway) was adorable. It’s not an abrupt kill. Rather he stays behind to die because of an injury that would slow the others up if not prove an impediment for them surviving. Fun fact: Stan Shaw was in the first Rocky movie.
The film itself mixes a little history in with its fiction. I’m not sure how much of it is legit but it helps add to the authenticity of everything. The discussion of the sandhogs for example allows for the addition of the side room behind the booth. Not only did it seem historically possible but it worked within the plot to give the survivors a way out.
There seems to be a level of reality to the whole thing which makes the movie click for me. Even at the very end where Kit and Maddy (Amy Brenneman) survive works even though every bone in my body says it shouldn’t. They should drown because all the rushing water pushes the air out of their lungs or just simply be crushed but somehow it still works. I like the movie. It’s a very good action film that doesn’t try to be much more than what it is. If you get a chance to see it I recommend it. You’ll enjoy yourself so long as you don’t go in expecting Shakespeare and you’re willing to suspend your disbelief a little.