2 stars


17th August 2005

"We fly planes!" says Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx, in the trailer for explosion overdose Stealth, like he's explaining the plot to an uninterested four year old. Funnily enough, it might just be the market Stealth is aimed at. Now, don't get me wrong, I like big stupid action lobotomies as much as the next guy, but there's a point where you have to draw a line in the sand - in this case, the line is being drawn right under the name of director Rob Cohen. This is the visionary behind such masterpieces of modern cinema as The Fast and the Furious and xXx, which may as well have been called 'Fast Cars Go NEEEOW' and 'Vin Diesel Go BANG To The Extreme!!' for all the intelligence they showed. Forgive me if I didn't have high hopes for Stealth.

Synopsis. Strap yourself in. A brand new US stealth plane has been developed with incredibly advanced AI, meaning it can fly missions all by itself, and talk in an annoying HAL-esque voice. Carelessly, the clever engineers behind EDI (which stands for Extreme Deep Invader - I checked, it's not a porn flick) forgot to add the code that protects the plane from going psycho when it gets struck by lightning, meaning the most advanced war plane on planet Earth ends up going 'blue screen of death' on our asses and attempts to drop da bomb on all manner of eastern countries. EDI beings to grow a personality, but unfortunately it's that of a pre-pubescent teenager - study the evidence; it begins to voluntarily listen to nu-metal while in flight, disobeys direct orders and even asks to be left alone. It probably even hates its parents and has an Evanescence poster in its bedroom.

Though it may share an uncanny similarity to your local Emo shoegazer, EDI certain has more personality than any of the other characters in Stealth. The triumvirate of pilots tasked with taking down the rogue bird are some of the most desperately two-dimensional characters I've ever seen, spouting lines so predictable you could probably watch the film on mute and still gain as much enjoyment. There's Josh Lucas, the strong white male - he's a loose cannon, a renegade who plays against the rules but always gets results (unfortunately for Josh, it's difficult to act when you've got a stupid grin plastered across your face at all times). Then there's Jamie Foxx, the token black guy - his character is the perfect foil for Lucas's character; all laid back and chilled out, a hit with the ladies and first with the sarcastic quips (he also listens to hip hop and says things like 'das hot', like all black people do). Finally, there's Jessica Biel, who's young and headstrong, with both a bright future and cracking pair of tits ahead of her. All they're required to do is bark important sounding orders at each other ("Tango tango, we've got a walnut on our tails, Cornetto?" etc.) and look pretty in military uniforms.

Stupid action films don't need good characters, or even a good plot to be entertaining (send your vitriolic hate mail to the usual address), but on top of a ridiculous storyline and wafer thin protagonists, you've got to endure Rob Cohen's constant camera abuse as well. The man must have Parkinson's disease because he just can't keep the fucking thing still, constantly moving the camera in and out of the cockpit, around and about the planes, alongside the missiles and down to the target - it sounds cool, but gets tiring the 109th time you've seen it. Even in low-tempo scenes back on terra firma, Cohen wields the camera like an over-eager Japanese tourist. If someone were to scratch their ass in a Rob Cohen film, the camera would travel along the optic signals from the brain, zigzag through the hairs on the arm down to the fingers, through the denim weave of the character's jeans and zoom in on the designated scratch area of the buttocks, while Linkin Park wail in the background. It's distracting to say the least. To the Extreme!!

Stealth is the equivalent of one of those jerks you see on the beach, oiled up and buffed with an extremely cacophonous stereo (and terrible taste in music) who kicks sand in little people's eyes and laughs, despite the fact he has the IQ of half a dead wasp. It's certainly no Top Gun - it's not even as funny as Hot Shots, although it does unintentionally veer dangerously close to spoof territory from time to time. It's a silly, silly, silly movie with next to no redeeming features, aside from a totally gratuitous Jessica Biel bikini scene and the odd visual flourish here and there (the slow-motion plane crash managed to squeeze a smile out of me, I'll concede). For a movie that's so intent on being loud, 'in your face' and obnoxious, the only stealth it's likely to exhibit is how quickly and quietly it'll drop off your radar once the credits finish rolling. Paul Ross would probably love this movie. But then Paul Ross is a cunt, isn't he?

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