Okay, so it’s got nothin on his fighting career, but UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture hasn’t done too bad in his play for an action movie future. He’s had MMA-related bit parts like REDBELT, he was good on a couple The Unit episodes and in some otherwise forgettable DTV pictures (SET UP, and the one with Dolph that I forgot to review), he got punched out by Seagal in TODAY YOU DIE, he plays the villain in a SCORPION KING, he was an Expendable. But HIJACKED is the first real Randy Couture vehicle. He probly shoulda waited for something better, but he’s a worker, you know. He’s gotta work.
Couture plays Agent Paul Ross, member of a CIA task force type deal trying to stop “The Tribe,” some kind of criminal/terrorist group that manipulates global financial markets or something. He finds out they may be targeting Bruce Lieb (Craig Fairbrass, HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN, CLIFFHANGER), the famous billionaire, not the fourth-string Bruce Lee imitator. Also Ross finds out that his estranged fiancee has just been hired to do PR for Lieb and will be on his private jet with him flying to meet with the SEC, so he decides to accept an offer to help with security.
Of course the jet gets HIJACKED by members of The Tribe, and he has to try to protect the passengers, stop a bomb from going off, etc. Meanwhile the Tribe leader (in cahoots with a couple Lieb Industries traitors, primarily the girl from JEEPERS CREEPERS) tries to threaten the board members into depositing a couple billion clams into his bank account.
By the way, in Portuguese it’s called RESGATE NAS ALTURAS, translating to something like RESCUE THE HEIGHTS. Remember that in case you need to loudly discuss this movie in an airport or on a plane. I don’t want you tossing that word around in the wrong place.
There are two supporting players who I’d think are bigger names in Hollywood than Couture, but they’re not even named on the cover of the blu-ray. Vinnie Jones (BRADLEY COOPER’S MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN) surprisingly doesn’t play the villain, he plays an MI-6 agent and friend of Ross, but he’s only in the beginning of the movie. Dominic Purcell (BLADE TRINITY) has a bigger role as the head of security on the private jet. This is a rare action movie team: they’re equals, they work together instantly, they don’t bicker or disagree. Even Seagal and Keith David in MARKED FOR DEATH have some philosophical disagreements at first, but these guys are in synch.
I want to see these two star in a better movie, but this one supports my twin theories that Purcell should always be allowed to use his Australian accent and that he’s way more charismatic with a mustache. I don’t know why he was humble enough to take a role as basically the sidekick in a no budget, non-theatrical movie as his followup to KILLER ELITE and STRAW DOGS, but it makes me think some day he’ll surprise everybody when he gets the right breakout role.
(I guess now that I look at it he does alot of DTV now, including three Uwe Bolle movies. But I keep liking him in these small parts so I’ll let you know when he goes next level.)
The director is Brandon Nutt, whose only previous work is a horror movie I’ve seen the cover of called LAST RESORT. He’s also credited with writing along with Scoop Wasserstein and Declan O’Brien, who in my opinion directed SHARKTOPUS. I actually knew his name already because he directed WRONG TURNS 3-5 (which are at least watchable) and wrote THE MARINE 3: HOMEFRONT (similar). Recently he directed a JOY RIDE 3, so he’s probly DTV 4 LIFE. But this one seems lower budget than those. They say the jet is really fancy and shoot alot of it in a hotel room set and don’t even make the camera shake a little or anything that would make it seem like it’s inside a flying vehicle. Whenever it cuts to stock footage of the plane taking off or something you see the film grain and are reminded how blandly clean all the new footage looks.
Like our boys in UNDER SIEGE 2: DARK TERRITORY the heroes look through some of the luggage to find a weapon. Ross settles on this:
which maybe is an oar or something but I initially thought it was one of those paddles for spanking that they use in fraternities or somewhere. The only thing that makes me question this is that Ross never spanks anybody with it, and why wouldn’t he if that was it designed for? Especially considering that one of his famous UFC moments involved spanking a guy. I wonder why that isn’t his action trademark? Even The Rock worked his eyebrow thing into one of his roles (I forget if it was MUMMY RETURNS or SCORPION KING).
Anyway, good choice of weapon, but not a good choice to throw it down on the ground as soon as he hits a guy over the head with it. Yeah, I know, the sound of the wood hitting the floor is satisfying punctuation for an action scene, but come on Ross, you should know that guy is gonna play unconscious for a second and then get back up and stab your fiancee’s best friend in the back. You know better than that.
The plot is very similar to the Brian Bosworth picture MACH 2, and without feeling that much more professional. But at least the Boz got to enter that movie by jumping from a helicopter onto a train. Couture is introduced just sitting bored at a table in front of the big screen that electronically charts everything about The Tribe. The action is a little close up because of the close quarters, but mostly it’s just too simple and staged looking to be all that exciting, like fist fights on a syndicated action TV show. Lots of leaning back to dodge a swing of a knife, a couple wrestling away of knives, a couple neck breaking holds.
But like The Boz, Couture has become more natural at delivering lines and he just has a great presence. I’ve seen some of my colleagues make fun of him as the worst Expendable, but he’s almost my favorite. Not just because he’s a real fighter but because he’s so unlike a normal action star. He came to movies already balding and with fucked up ears (that can be used as weapons!), and you can’t imagine he’s ever been a pretty boy in his life. But he’s not like Danny Trejo or somebody who could easily play bad guys and henchmen forever. He resonates a nice guy quality.
He has an interesting face, he’s manly as hell without being macho, he’s credible as a tough guy despite pretty limited, primitive action scenes. That’s the main qualification for a DTV action star: I want to keep watching him even in a totally generic, not very well made movie. Now let’s hook him up with one of the really good directors and see what happens.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.