Act of War Release Date:1998 Genre:Action Director: Robert Lee (Hostage Train, The Silencer, The Operative) Writer: Paul Jech Starring: Jack Scalia If there’s one thing that got me into the direct-to-video world aside from bad slasher films, it was bad action movies that followed the formula and in the end, satisfied my minimal expectations. It’s […]

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Act of War
Release Date:1998
Genre:Action
Director: Robert Lee (Hostage Train, The Silencer, The Operative)
Writer: Paul Jech
Starring: Jack Scalia

If there’s one thing that got me into the direct-to-video world aside from bad slasher films, it was bad action movies that followed the formula and in the end, satisfied my minimal expectations. It’s what has allowed me to enjoy Fred Olen Ray and Jim Wynorski efforts for years, along with films from other directors. One of the many formulas that production companies have taken advantage of, and according to many run into the ground, is direct from Bruce Willis’ Die Hard.

For an example of a movie that just takes the formula, and runs with it, all the while making the absolute minimal in changes, look no further than Act of War. Distributed in a time when York Entertainment had not yet dedicated themselves fully to urban and the occasional softcore effort, Act of War is the antichrist of original filmmaking. There is nothing in Act of War that hasn’t been lifted from other, superior films. Somehow, though, for an action junkie like myself, it’s enough to get a half decent grade out of me.

Jack Scalia, a veteran of foreign-made b-films, is the former head of security at the American embassy in the Bazrhikistan, formerly of the Soviet Union. This is, as per the usual, a made-up name, a tactic that Nu Image has been using for years now. Jack has been suspended and replaced after an incident officially marked him as an unstable renegade. After a painfully drawn out opening scene which sees a group of terrorists (with nearly identical clothing to the soldiers they battle, making the whole thing perplexing) take over nuclear weapons, he appears uninvited to a party being held by the President of Kzarikastan to warn his former boss. Of course, there’s a terrorist plant at the party, so no one believes him. If you’ve seen Die Hard, you can guess what happens next, and there’s a 99% chance that you’ll get the entire plot in a nutshell.

There’s a reason why a plot eventually becomes a formula. It works. While the films using the formula will never have the same impact as the original, they can still be damn good if done by a team who know that they’re adhering to the formula, and don’t try to revolutionize their product. That’s exactly what North American Pictures chose to do.

The team behind Act of War certainly didn’t lack the experience to make a hostage film either. Schlockster Lloyd A. Simandl, who directs and produces one too many softcore films about medieval women being made into slaves for comfort, produced this. Director Robert Lee made two Die Hard rip-offs for North American Pictures, Hostage Train and Dead Fire, while also making a third, Cyberjack, for another company.
While it never steps above the production values expected of a Canadian TV movie (although it was shot in the Czech Republic), the CGI is ridiculously poor, the lapses in judgment are ludicrous, and it’s really, really cheesy, Act of War is still a fun ride.

DVD: Barebones.

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