Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Agent Red

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Year: 2000

Run Time: 95 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

Director: Damian Lee

Cast: Tony Becker, Melissa Brasselle, Larry Carroll, Robert Donovan, Steve Eastin, &tc.

Format Viewed: DVD (R1)

Premise: A submarine transporting a bioengineered super strain virus is hijacked by Russian terrorists. The only survivors amongst the crew are a couple with a strained relationship. In order to save the world they must get over their romantic squabble and work together against the evil terrorists.

The DVD: Picture is clear, audio is good, alas the presentation is full screen with minimal extras, including Spanish subtitles and a trailer for the movie.

The Movie: From director Damian "Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe" Lee and starring the go to guy for low budget direct to video paramilitary action flicks, Dolph Lundgren, Agent Red is a bipolar gypsy boldly wandering through a phantasmagoria of heteroclite sophism. And that's the most intelligent sounding mouthful of nothing that's likely been said about this b-movie. A movie that kicks off with a scene so ludicrous you'll be laughing in derision before the title scroll. .

What the funk?

If that's not the most ludicrous face camo you've ever seen consider that those people are supposed to be a special ops military strike team deploying on a mission. The only way actors in a movie could look less believably military would be if the movie was a geriatric porno. The problem is this movie doesn't know what it wants to be. The opening scene could be from a different movie altogether as the actors in it are never seen again, nor does the McGuffin the team goes after (a F-117 stealth fighter) have any bearing on the plot of the movie. In fact the only point the opening scene appears to have is to establish that Dolph Lundgren is a military bad ass. But don't we already know that? This poor guy has pretty much been typecast as such since appearing in Universal Soldier.

More utterly pointless establishing scenes follow. This movie is a convoluted confusion of endlessly recycled stock footage propping up a threadbare plot device that is forgotten almost as soon as it's introduced. My favorite bit of exposition, though it's delivered in a most unbelievable manner, is the following answer to a question about "how hot" (hot being the movie's code word for contagious) the toxin being transported aboard the submarine is:

"100% fatality rate. Infection incurs within 3 minutes once exposed. In six minutes you have splitting headaches. 8 minutes nausea. By the 9th minute you are projectile vomiting as the body starts to shut down. At 10 minutes you're bleeding from your rectum, eyes, nose, and nipples."

How do I get out of this movie.

Ouch! That sounds terrible. Alas, after delivering that ominous sounding set up, the most you ever see are some extras standing around pretending to be gagging as they fall limply to the ground. Did the director have ADD and just forget what the movie was supposed to be about? Why build audience expectations only to alienate them by totally ignoring the set-up?

Availability: There's R2 and R3 releases with the German DVD, Agent Red - Ein tödlicher Auftrag, apparently still in print. Sadly the R1 release is apparently OOP. Just be aware when searching for a copy of Agent Red it was released in both FS and WS versions and there's more extras on the WS release (including a commentary track).

Assessment: Agent Red is best summed up by the following quote from the movie itself:

General Stillwell (Stephen Macht): "Ever heard of Agent Red?"

Captain Matt Hendricks (Dolph Lundgren): "Sounds like a bad action movie."

It's difficult not to be hypercritical when a movie pokes fun at itself like that. Yet there is a subtle charm to this movie, when viewed as a self-referential farce, that continues to crop up in the dialogue. It's as if the writer is winking at the audience every now and again saying: Yeah, we know, this is beyond bad but let's just have fun with it!

Especially when the above preceded a briefing that uses this. .

Searching for C.O.B.R.A.

The above is a scene from RED DAWN. Agent Red played segments from this on a TV monitor as part of an "briefing"; I kid you not! This movie is comprised of so much stock footage even Roger Corman would shake his head is disgust. Despite this the movie is actually fairly well edited. A surprising fact considering how inept and ill conceived certain early scenes were, like having Dolph Lundgren's character in a meeting, in military uniform, with military brass who are informing him of time constraints and the necessity to get to the submarine. .

And then the farmer's daughter said. .

And then, suddenly, seeing his character off-boarding from a commercial flight, in civilian clothes, and boarding a Russian street taxi and hoping the guy knows where the military base he needs to be at is located. .


That's crazy! But then this entire movie seems to be a few marbles shy of a full bag. There's even a scene, supposedly aboard the submarine, between Lundgren and his love interest where the two just have a loud spat in a corridor. Actually you never do see any berths aboard this alleged submarine. How lazy was the director that he couldn't find a broom closet or tool shed to dress up as a room?

Preparing for chili night.

Verdict: AGENT RED is basically just a bad kick-boxing flick building up to a chick fight that's lamer than the title. Yet, aside from the fact this is a nonsensical submarine movie masquerading as a killer virus flick, AGENT RED is still better than 90% of Sci-Fi Channel original movies. Sure it's more CRIMSON TIDE than it is OUTBREAK but it's also more entertaining than a straight drama like COVERT ONE: THE HADES FACTOR. What makes this movie entertaining isn't that it's any better acted, though it does have some surprisingly well scripted banter, but rather it's the use of stock footage; much of which looks oddly familiar.

Click for full size image.

If you liked J.A.G. you may get a kick out of this. The editing, and use of familiar stock footage, lends this movie the feel of a feature length J.A.G. episode, sadly sans the lawyers. Be advised this a bad movie. It's so bad that there's an entire page dedicated to talking about how bad it is. (I can't believe how spot on my initial assessment of this monster opus was!) Behold the opening paragraph from that page:

"After the film was completed, producer Andrew Stevens deemed the movie too inept to be released. Damian Lee screwed things up so bad that writer Steve Latshaw was brought in to at least make the movie half-competent, while Jim Wynorski was hired to direct some new scenes and insert stock footage where appropriate. "

You can read the full article about the movie here. In summary the original edit ran roughly 100 minutes but had to be trimmed down quite a bit with 40 minutes of new footage added to a re-edit to make the movie coherent. And considering that this article also points out that stock footage was lifted from the movies Counter Measures, Storm Catcher, and Solo it's amazing that Agent Red wasn't far worse. If the original ran 100 minutes and the version on DVD clocks in at just around 95, with 40 minutes of that being re-shoot sequences, and an unknown amount of stock footage added in on top of that, there must not be much of the original movie in here. Which makes Agent Red all the more amazing as an artifact of b-movie filmmaking.

Me so hoar knee!

Agent Red is an tasty yet slightly moldy sharp cheddar with a light citrus tang. I declare Agent Red to be bad movie uranium and thus heartily recommended it for the morbidly curious, student filmmakers, and anyone wishing to pad out a b-movie party night. All others should try to minimize their exposure.

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Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan

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