Vertical Limit (2000)

(In theaters, December 2000) If you can depend on any one director around to deliver a solid action film, it’s Martin Campbell. Here, he follows Goldeneye and The Mask Of Zorro with another technically superb piece of pure entertainment, the mountain-climbing thriller Vertical Limit. Granted, he doesn’t have a lot to work with in terms of plot: Filled with impossibilities, clichés, bad dialogue and major structural problems, Vertical Limit does not work on the page. (Though I’ll admit at being rather amused, as was the rest of the Ottawa-area audience, at the jab about French-Canadians. It helps that my mother’s a nurse named Monique.) The problem worsens with the casting, with blandness-incarnate Chris O’Donnell and anti-babe Robin Tunney. (While competent actors both, they simply aren’t compelling as action heroes) But in an air-conditioned theater with a huge screen and heavy bass speakers, you can practically fool yourself that you’re having a good time. As soon as an action beat comes up, Campbell’s technical skills come in focus and you can be assured of audacious camera shots, expert editing and white-knuckle thrills. Too bad that most of the good action scenes are at the beginning and the middle of the film rather than at the end; this proves to be the single biggest failing of the film as it deflates more than it goes out with a bang. Certainly worth a look for action junkies, as it stands as one of the best action films of 2000. Granted, it wasn’t a very good year to begin with…

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