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Dustin Putman

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Extreme Ops (2002)
Zero Stars

Directed by Christian Duguay
Cast: Rufus Sewell, Devon Sawa, Bridgette Wilson-Sampras, Jana Pallaske, Joe Absolom, Heino Ferch, Klaus Lowitsch, Rupert Graves, Jean-Pierre Castaldi, Heinrich Schmieder
2002 – 95 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (for violence, language, and brief nudity).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, November 28, 2002.

It is often easy to forget while suffering through "Extreme Ops" that what you are watching is the product of a major studio (in this case, Paramount Pictures). Every scene—heck, make that every frame—is so mind-numbingly amateurish and asinine one wonders how the film ever was greenlit in the first place. Moreover, who decided it was a good idea to hand Christian Duguay (2000's "The Art of War") a camera? I'd sooner hand over the directorial reigns to a one-eyed monkey than allow Duguay to ever make another feature film.

Movies as pitiful and misguided as "Extreme Ops" come around only a handful of times each year, and the only response they elicit from viewers is that of a head-scratch. An action film centering on the topic of extreme snowboarding with a dimwitted terrorist plot thrown in for kicks, the film tries to be entertaining, hip, exciting, and a desirable time-waster for the teen crowd. It promptly falls on its face within the opening scene on all four counts, and never even begins to recover. I've seen zero-budgeted student films in college that have offered more stimulation and innovation than what "Extreme Ops" throws at the unsuspecting viewer.

For the first 70 minutes, there is virtually no plot to speak of. Commercial director Ian (Rufus Sewell) sets out with partner Jeffrey (Rupert Graves), production assistant Will (Devon Sawa), and a ragtag group of ski-stunt performers (Bridgette Wilson-Sampras, Joe Absolom, Jana Pallaske) to a remote winter resort under construction to film an advertisement for Avalanche camcorders. They goof around, drink, snowboard, and diligently recite stupid and shallow dialogue that one supposes passes for character development nowadays. As the movie's end draws mercifully close, an actual problem arises: a Russian military strongman named Pavlov (Klaus Lowitsch) under hideout spots the filmmakers and mistakes them for CIA operatives. Believing that their safety is threatened, Pavlov and his cronies will stop at nothing to kill every one of the intruders.

Even for those undemanding audience members who expect nothing more of "Extreme Ops" than some thrilling action sequences and stunts, they will walk away feeling supremely cheated. The snowboarding footage, just like the rest of the picture, is haphazardly edited by Clive Barrett and Sylvain Lebel in a way that sucks the life and potential energy out of its every second. And the screenplay, unfortunately credited to Michael Zaidan, is mindboggling in its inanity. The writing is forgettable tripe, with a story that is nonexistent up until the finale.

The actors—some of which have been involved in respectable projects in the past—should be ashamed of their involvement here. The performance of the usually good Rufus Sewell (2001's "A Knight's Tale") is akin to that of a corpse, while Devon Sawa (2000's "Final Destination") and Bridgette Wilson-Sampras (2001's "The Wedding Planner") try to retain their dignity in the face of such a cinematic catastrophe. Erasing "Extreme Ops" from all of the above's résumés would be an intelligent idea if they plan to get further work in the future.

For aspiring directors and screenwriters everywhere, "Extreme Ops" offers hope. If Christian Duguay and Michael Zaidan can be given millions of dollars by a studio to film something as obnoxiously bad as this, then even a young child of seven or eight has what it takes to work in Hollywood. "Extreme Ops" is a painful wipeout, in all senses of the term.

©2002 by Dustin Putman

Dustin Putman