Chill Factor

Directed by Hugh Johnson
Starring: Cuba Gooding, Jr., Skeet Ulrich, Peter Firth, David Paymer.
MPAA Rating: R for violence and language.

Review by Matt Heffernan
September 2, 1999

Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Skeet Ulrich both had small parts in As Good As It Gets, which was one of the best films of the 1990's. Somebody in Hollywood had the bright idea to put them in a buddy-action picture that combines Speed and Broken Arrow. Now they can further capitalize on their on-screen chemistry. Oh wait, they weren't in any scenes together before. Well, you win some and you lose a lot more.

A chemical weapon, nicknamed "Elvis", is tested on a remote island by the military. It was developed by Dr. Long (David Paymer), who deploys what he thinks will destroy all organic material within 200 feet. Of course, since scientists never know what they are doing in the movies, the amount used actually had a radius of 5 miles, which wipes out the whole island, and 18 soldiers. But not Dr. Long and Capt. Brynner (Peter Firth), who is blamed for the disaster. He is sentenced to ten years at Ft. Leavenworth, so that he can become a vindictive, evil person.

10 years later (without aging a bit), he steals some Elvis from the lab at Ft. McGruder, Montana, where Dr. Long (who doesn't look so bad himself) now works. The old captain shoots Dr. Long, but when he tries to get Elvis, the doctor ran off with it, bleeding. He brings it to his fishing buddy, Mason (Ulrich). Since it explodes when it reaches fifty degrees Fahrenheit, he has to hijack an ice cream truck, driven by a disgruntled Gooding. Then they head back to McGruder, with Capt. Brynner on their tail.

As I write that description, it makes me question this whole "plot" even more. It may not be as bad as Universal Soldier: The Return, but it is certainly one of the worst films of this year. The whole thing is painful to watch. Usually such cliché-ridden trash is numbing. The script and direction are extremely amateurish, which should be expected. This is a first-time effort for director Hugh Johnson, and his screenwriters. But how did they manage to get major acting talent for this project?

Not that the cast turns in anything spectacular. Gooding gives it the best shot, but just wastes his energy mugging. Ulrich appears to believe his lines even less than me. Firth, who is generally quite good, has a worse American accent than Kenneth Branagh's in Wild Wild West. There are a few interesting action set pieces, but none are executed very well. There are only a few special effects, so it didn't even have the expensive look of WWW.

Due to the lack of promotion for this film, you would think that the studio had (intelligently) abandoned the film. But they actually went for a major distribution with a film that has no public interest, and is a heaping pile of crap, to boot. Their web site really sucks, too. You have to download Flash, if you don't have it. Then you have to download this huge applet, all before you can get any information. I guess they just couldn't stop shoveling it on.

For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Chill Factor (1999)

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Review © 1999 Matt Heffernan