Of all the big action stars of the 80s and 90s, Wesley Snipes is one whose films I’m almost completely unfamiliar with. Sure, I’ve seen Blade — what comic fan my age didn’t see it? — and a few other of his more recent films, but I’m still something of a novice when it comes to his filmography. So, when I came across 1994’s Drop Zone, a skydiving action movie directed by John Badham (Short Circuit, WarGames) I figured it would be worth checking out.
And it was. Kind of. While this movie certainly doesn’t abide by the laws of physics and the acting isn’t the best, I still had fun watching it, thanks mostly to the game, if not overly talented cast. Snipes is all over the place in this film. You’d think he’d be more upset after his brother got killed, but you can’t tell as the movie rolls on. Plus, not for nothing, but he’s not the most natural actor of all time. Then you’ve also got Yancy Butler as the head of the skydiving group. She’s super into this role and has a lot of cool moments. I also liked that she was a complicated female character in an action movie which doesn’t happen all too often.
Meanwhile, Gary Busey plays the bad guy. On the Busey-Crazy Scale he’s somewhere between Lethal Weapon and The Rage. This time around he’s running a gang of skydiving thieves who sprung Michael Jeter’s character — a hacker — from prison to help with their next job. They’re trying to get involved with a Washington, D.C. Fourth of July so they can dive in and rob the DEA. The rest of the cast is rounded out with tons of That Guy and That Woman actors and actresses who have mile-long IMDb pages who, on the whole, nail their parts.
Silly as some of the action scenes can be — one parachuter somehow flies right through the window of a truck that should supposedly be driving away from the scene — I will say that the practically shot skydiving scenes are pretty thrilling. In that regard, it reminded me of Cliffhanger where the reality of the subject trumps my brain telling me that I’m watching a fictional film. Not being a thrill seeker myself, I always get a little antsy when I see people way high up with the potential to come down quick, fast and messily.
Snipes’ aforementioned brother is played by Cosby Show alum Malcolm-Jamal Warner. I realized while explaining part of this story to someone over the weekend that this movie would have been infinitely better if Warner had starred. He’s a far better actor and most of the fight scenes felt pretty tacked on, so they either could have been dropped or Warner probably could have pulled them off.
So, while Drop Zone isn’t exactly a classic action film for the ages, it does have some fun moments that make it the perfect kind of movie to watch with a group of friends while drinking beer and eating pizza. Man, I miss watching movies with my friends!