The Alternate (2000)

Cost: £1.23 (Play.com)

Tag-line: “In the tradition of Die Hard…”

Sample Dialogue: “I’m getting tired of being killed…”

Film company Nu Image (now known as Millennium Films) have in recent years reached a certain level of respectability in the film industry thanks to movies such as The Expendables. But they are best known for picking up the market that had been left in the wake of the collapse of Golan-Globus/Cannon Films.

Make them cheap; get some famous people to come in for a few days between some proper gigs and have enough action to cut together a decent trailer is still the strategy of most B-moves. And thus it is here with The Alternate, featuring that old war horse, Eric Roberts.

Eric Roberts is one of those actors who you always enjoy seeing on the big screen, but who never really managed to rise above making cheap crap. He is perhaps best known to younger audience members for playing mob boss Maroni in The Dark Knight, and stealing the limelight from The Expendables.

Sadly he was never able to really trade in his chips that these two films gave him, and he has quickly gone back to playing roles such as that of the President of the United States in the movie First Dog, a movie about the President’s dog, which has gone missing. I hope he got a nice extension to his house for that one.

The Republican field of candidates for the 2012 election was somewhat weak...

In The Alternate he plays a character I am told is called The Replacement. This is frankly a bit up itself. I will call him Ralph instead.

The film begins with a long, long sequence in which Secret Agent Ice-T is testing the security of a building which the President is about to visit as part of his re-election campaign (which is not going well). But a team of super agents (which Ralph has just recently joined) who are there to test the security measures put in place, manage to beat the secret service and “kill” the fake-President. Ice-T is not a happy bunny. At least I don’t think he is. He isn’t a very good actor.

But none of this matters anyway, because the President’s Chief of Staff has come up with the brilliant idea of pretend kidnapping the real President to boost his election chances. To do this she recruits the team that Ralph is working for. Only problem is, the team decides that perhaps it might be better to hold him to ransom for reals. Thus the board is set, and Ralph has to take down his former partners…one by one.

The DVD proclaims that this film is in the tradition of Die Hard. A bold claim and one you know going in that it couldn’t possibly live up to. The “Hollywood DVD” banner on the cover should be enough of a clue.

But you have no idea how bad this film is.

The kidnapper’s big plan to take out the secret service? Smuggling in blow pipes with little darts and knocking them all out. There is what feels like a ten minute sequence of people running around blowing darts. None of the secret service agents, who are equipped with actual guns, notice this bunch of characters standing in front of them.

Ice-T leaves the film early, his weekend’s worth of shooting wrapped up quickly. Following him, Michael Madsen enters the frame, in the role of Cop On The Outside Who Talks to the Hero on a Walkie-Talkie.

What? I actully get to live with Frankie from the X-factor for 2 weeks!?! Sign me up!

But for the most part the film is Eric Roberts vs. the main bad guy, played by Bryan Genesse, who is also the films writer and fight coordinator.  What this means is never ending monologues from Genesse who either genuinely believes that this stuff is script writing gold, or knows he has to pad out the film to fulfil a 90 minute run time.

Writer. Poet. Action Hero.

There isn’t very much to talk about. The shoot outs are mostly in small rooms, and no one gets hurt. Roberts does get the snot beaten out of him in one, kind of decent, fight in which a female member of the team beats him with a pipe (I like to think Genesse thought that was clever subtext. He typed that scene, got himself a drink and relaxed for the rest of the day), but it is mostly just dull and cheap.

Part of the problem is that most of the bad guys are taken out early. If you are claiming that your film is like Die Hard, then you should appreciate that one of things that made Die Hard so good was Alan Rickman’s gang, and how their deaths were spread across the film in order to keep tensions high. If McClane had killed all the henchmen, and it was just him and Gruber running around Nakatomi Plaza for most of the running time then you get an idea about what this film is like.

Why have a burger when you can have steak?

Director Sam Firstenberg, who made the film Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, doesn’t seem much bothered by things such as continuity or moving the camera. Everything is directed in a flat unengaged style, which doesn’t help to hide the cheapness of the production.

I saw The Alternate over a month ago, and it has taken this long to actually type up the review because I was so utterly bored by it. On the Millennium Films website, they list the film, but do not provide a trailer. I cannot say that I blame them.

Good movie, bad movie or beer movie: Bad Movie

[Robert Girvan]