Critical Mass Release Date: 2001 Genre: Action Director(s): Ed Raymond (aka Fred Olen Ray) Writer(s): Sean McGinly (Sonic Impact, Venemous) Starring: Treat Williams, Udo Kier, Lori Loughlin Fred Olen Ray has big balls. Or rather, the person at Phoenician Films that spearheaded Critical Mass does. It’s no big secret that many direct-to-video movies use stock […]

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Critical Mass
Release Date: 2001
Genre: Action
Director(s): Ed Raymond (aka Fred Olen Ray)
Writer(s): Sean McGinly (Sonic Impact, Venemous)
Starring: Treat Williams, Udo Kier, Lori Loughlin

Fred Olen Ray has big balls.

Or rather, the person at Phoenician Films that spearheaded Critical Mass does.

It’s no big secret that many direct-to-video movies use stock footage. Many times it’s simply an exterior shot of a government building. Other times there’s a nifty explosion that a director wants without a suitable budget to accomplish it. While ignoring blatant theft of an entire scene (that will come with the review of Agent Red), the highest level you can go to with these stock footage movies is blending. A director will take an expensive scene from a Hollywood movie, such as a car chase, and then shoot a very limited amount of coverage for the editor to blend into the original footage. It rarely looks perfect, but when you have professionals like Ray and Wynorski behind the camera, it typically comes off very well.

One of the unspoken rules about stock footage is that you pluck from movies that the general population has not seen. Black Horizon and Final Examination both used the same car chase from the remake of Get Carter, various movies have used Iron Eagle’s military footage, and going beyond the feature spectrum, many companies use stock footage supplied by government organizations and television channels. You do not usually see footage from hundred million dollar movies used, but Critical Mass defies that rule.

The first ten minutes of this “Die Hard in a [nuclear power plant]” movie is clipped directly from Terminator 2. To put it into prospective, T2 made over $200 million in the U.S. alone. Get Carter looks to have fallen short making $20 million worldwide. They don’t even try to hide the connection, as the name Cyberdyne Systems not only appears on a sign in footage lifted from the movie, but one of the characters mentions it later on. To his credit, Fred Olen Ray does a great job blending this footage. He and cinematographer Theo Angell actually give things a nice atmosphere before we cut to the explosions and such that come courtesy of T2.

As for the plot, it’s fairly simple. A terrorist (Kier) steals nuclear material and infiltrates a dormant nuclear plant in order to prepare for the exploding of a nuclear bomb. On duty, though, is a security guard who isn’t the best gambler, Mike Jeffers (Williams). Jeffers is unexpectedly acting as a tour guide for a state senator, his press secretary (Loughlin), and a television crew. Since they are going to interfere with his plans, the TV crew gets picked off. Jeffers, as the Die Hard formula goes, then spends the rest of the movie lurking in the shadows between kicking some ass.

For a stock footage action movie that starts off with Terminator 2 and closes with Universal Soldier, Critical Mass is an achievement. Despite never looking like much of an action star, Williams succeeds as per the usual, as does the rest of the cast.

Well-done Fred.

DVD: Barebones, which is a shame, since Fred’s commentary tracks are one of the main reasons I became so interested in DTV cinema.

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Critical Mass, 6.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

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