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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Stealth (review)

Baloney and American Cheese

[Depending on which particular human naughty bits intrigue you more, you may wish to substitute “Jessica Biel” for each mention of Josh Lucas in this review. Though it’ll be tougher to mangle “Biel” so it sounds like “nuclear.”]

Fighter pilot Josh Lucas is “armed for penetration detonation,” he informs us as Stealth opens, and so I just gave up right then and there and decided to go weak in the knees for the next two hours. Which, if you can manage it, is the best way to enjoy a hilariously absurd slice of American cheese like this one.
Supposedly the star of Stealth is not in fact Josh Lucas but actually some sort of supercool robotic warplane that’s the neatest thing since the Brave Little Toaster… Yes, wait, it’s coming back to me. EDI — which stands for Extreme Deep Invader, and no, I’m not even going to go there — is “the future of digital warfare,” and is not meant to suggest Robocop‘s ED-209 at all, not even by dint of the fact that naturally any Hollywood robot that dares to attempt to replace human ingenuity and smarts and incredible hotness will of course be getting a lesson in human ass-kicking. (Just like ED-209!) Nor is the big red eyelike thing on the side of EDI’s quantum brain, which reads Josh’s lips sits nearby as Josh voices doubts about EDI’s reliability in the field, meant to suggest HAL 9000 or HAL’s computer-generated psychosis. Not at all.

Oh, director Rob Cohen, with your XXX bombast and your fast and furious B-movie verve, you think you’re so cool, but you could have discovered a new level of cheesy audacity if you’d actually allowed someone onscreen to mutter, “I’m sorry, Josh, I’m afraid I can’t do that” or “Open the pod bay doors, please, EDI,” or to break into a few bars of “Daisy” once EDI starts losing it, just like all of us in the audience were doing. I bet one of those was actually there in W.D. Richter’s (Home for the Holidays) script and you cut it. Chicken.

No, this is mostly familiar territory for Cohen: humorless, ridiculous hardware porn, though now enhanced with The New Patriotism (as required by the PATRIOT Act, Section 12, Subsection 47, Paragraph 3). Stealth probably augers a new subgenre of action film: the techno terror fantasy, in which gung-ho American cleverness gives birth to the coolest, most spectacular toys with which to eliminate bad guys living in caves. Who needs intelligence agents who speak the obscure language of Terroristan when you’ve got EDI, who can simply take out the terrorists dragging lost Russian nukes around remote Eurasian mountains with teams of cattle by dropping a missile on them? We go in and swat the fly with a sledgehammer, and as long as there’s a few pretty people around to get all teary-eyed over the “inevitable” resultant deaths of a few hundred thousand innocent civilians — like, say, Josh Lucas (Around the Bend, Undertow) and his fighter-pilot teammates Jessica Biel (Blade: Trinity, Cellular) and Jamie Foxx (Ray, Collateral) — the mission objectives have been achieved.

“We’ve got a nuclear crisis on our hands!” the pilots’ commander, Sam Shepard (Swordfish, The Pledge), intones urgently, probably banging his fist on a desk at the same time, and so the untested and most likely unstable EDI is required to supplement the talents of the world’s hotshot-est fighter pilots. But oh no, Josh doesn’t like it: Computers, even ones with brains like “quantum sponges,” can’t make creative decisions, don’t have morals… nor do they have amazing blue eyes, nor do they fill out flight suits like that, oh my. Never mind the politics: Look, nearly naked Josh and Jessica at a gorgeous Thai waterfall!

Don’t fret yourself over the messy state of global geopolitics — worry about the Josh Luc-ular crisis instead. “My second engine has flamed out — I’m coming in hot!” Oh, you are, Josh — you are. Two hours’ distraction from reality? Two hours not curled into a fetal ball even with ample evidence for the necessity of such a reaction staring me in the face from the movie screen, or trying to do so around the eye candy? Thank you, Josh, for coming in hot.


MPAA: rated PG-13 for intense action, some violence, brief strong language and innuendo

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb
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