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Down the Tubes

Yo, Adrian. Think the Italian Stallion was in tough when he duked it out with Apollo Creed, Mr. T and that huge Russian? Figure Rambo had his hands full on those fiery missions impossible to Cambodia and Afghanistan? Hey, the dialogue alone would have killed anybody else. Ever worry that your man might fall off a mountain in Cliffhanger or die of a stroke in The Specialist when he took that shower with Sharon Stone?

Well, you ain't seen nothin' yet. In Daylight, the entire Holland Tunnel collapses on top of Sylvester Stallone and he walks (swims, actually) away from that, too. The guy is indestructible, lemme tell ya.

As a Stallone vehicle, this mayhem rates a solid B-minus--pretty fair selection of mumbles, shouts and grunts, lots of explosions. By the end, our hero is slathered head to foot in freezing mud, all the better to showcase those big brown eyes gazing out of every closeup. But as a disaster movie, it leaves a lot to be desired. In reel one, a couple of lunatics smash their stolen Cadillac into the back of a truck hauling toxic explosives through the tunnel. The thing blows up and caves in, sealing both the Manhattan and New Jersey entrances. Okay, but from that moment on, director Rob Cohen (Dragonheart) doesn't seem to have any better idea of what to do than the survivors do. Showing chaos and fear in the face of raging fires, poisonous fumes, rushing water and armies of rats is one thing; baffling the audience with long, murky speeches on tunnel design and arcane escape routes is quite another. Cohen shows us a lot of twisted wreckage and burned-out walls, but if you can figure out where these people are, why they're not already dead and just what old Sly has in mind to get them out, you're doing a lot better than I am.

Asked about his plan, even he answers: "I dunno."
Want to meet the characters? It won't take long, because you already know everyone. Kit Latura (Stallone): New York's defrocked emergency medical chief; tough guy with good heart; pockets stuffed with explosives. Madelyne Thompson (Amy Brenneman): Unsuccessful playwright heading back home to Indiana when cave-in occurs; plucky lass with golden heart; describes rats as "shit with feet," which may explain why she failed on Broadway. George Tyrell (Stan Shaw): African-American cop working the tunnel; brave man with stout heart; doomed to die in the name of Everyman. Roy Nord (Viggo Mortensen): Rich, cocky entrepreneur with a ready supply of mountain-climbing equipment on hand; brave man with prideful heart; doomed to die in the name of yuppie arrogance.

Throw in a busload of convicts ripe for redemption, a kindly old couple and their beloved dog and feuding marrieds with an obnoxious teenage daughter in the back of the Volvo and you've got the usual disaster-movie variety pack. Amid scorched cars, acrid smoke and freezing water, the intrepid Latura orders everyone around in the process of trying to save them. But how? Neither writer Leslie Bohm nor director Cohen comes up with a plan even so substantial as the move to the bottom of the ship that saved a few souls in the Poseidon Adventure, or that decisive (if ludicrous) presidential attack on the mother ship in Independence Day. By contrast, Sly and company seem to be wandering aimlessly inside the tunnel, scratching their heads. When a few of them escape, we don't sigh with relief; we say, huh? How?

What the hell. If you're looking for logic, head over to the art house and catch a little Merchant-Ivory. If it's bone-crushingly loud special effects, huge fires and incoherent verbal exchanges you crave--and who doesn't?--then Sylvester Stallone's still your man. Always will be. Until he keels over and goes boom in, say, Rocky XXXIV.

--Gallo

Daylight. Screenplay by Leslie Bohm. Directed by Rob Cohen. With Sylvester Stallone, Amy Brenneman, Stan Shaw, Viggo Mortensen and Dan Hedaya.

 
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