Dir: Christian Duguay. Ger-UK. 2002. 93mins.
Some effectively shot extreme skiing and snowboarding footage is the primary excuse for Extreme Ops, an otherwise pretty cheesy, virtually plot-free Euro-American action romp with a mid-level cast of youngsters and older hands from the British, German and US film and TV worlds. The long-completed MDP Worldwide production (previously known as The Extremists) has taken an uninspiring $4.7m since it opened on 1,800 screens during Thanksgiving, but it should at least give the film's ancillary prospects a boost. Even in international markets, Extreme Ops' best chances appear to be as a TV and video filler item for thrill-starved young males.
Riding the extreme sports bandwagon from the start, the film opens with a nifty kayaking stunt that serves to introduce British commercials director Ian (Sewell), his cocky American producer Jeffrey (Graves, in a grating attempt at comic parody) and their cameramen, goofy Will (Sawa, from Final Destination) and steadfast Mark (German actor Ferch). Looking to capture outrageous footage for a new video camera commercial, the team hires Olympic gold medallist skier Chloe (Wilson-Sampras, from The Wedding Planner, but known equally as Pete Sampras' wife), daredevil Silo (Absolom, from UK soap EastEnders) and wild-child Kittie (German film and TV regular Pallaske).
The gang sets up a production base in an unfinished resort hotel high in the Austrian Alps but then - almost an hour into the feature - discover that they are sharing the hotel with escaped Serbian war criminal Pavle (German veteran Loewitsch). Pursued by Pavle and his henchman in a chopper, the gang sets off down the mountain on skis and boards to warn the world about the Serbs' plans to bomb a war crimes tribunal.
Director Christian Duguay (The Art of War and American mini-series Joan Of Arc) and German cinematographer Hannes Hubach do their best work on the film's mountain sequences, delivering exciting images - reportedly captured without the help of blue screen or post-production effects - of the skiers and boarders as they race down the mountain, dodging avalanches as they go. The helicopter pursuit produces more conventional action moments that might, perhaps, have looked more impressive on a bigger, studio-backed budget.
In between the action sequences, debut feature writer Michael Zaidan's script passes the time with some lame frat boy humour, a couple of naughty snowboard pranks and some innocent flirting in the hotel's outdoor hot tub. Surprisingly, given the genre and apparent target audience, actual sex never rears its ugly head in this (in the US at least) PG-13 release. In fact, there's a curious wholesomeness to the proceedings that sometimes makes Extreme Ops feel more like a ripping adventure with the Extreme Famous Five.
Prod cos: MDP Worldwide, Diamant Cohen Productions, Appollomedia/Extreme Productions, Carousel Picture Company
US dist: Paramount Pictures
Int'l sales: MDP Worldwide
Exec prods: Romain Schroeder, Rudy Cohen, Mark Damon, David Saunders
Prods: Moshe Diamant, Jan Fantl
Co-prods: Frank Hubner, Tom Reeve
Scr: Michael Zaidan, from a story by Timothy Scott Bohard, Mark Mullan
Cinematography: Hannes Hubach
Prod des: Philip Harrison
Ed: Clive Barrett, Sylvain Lebel
Music: Normand Corbeil, Stanislas Syrewicz
Main cast: Devon Sawa, Bridgette Wilson-Sampras, Rupert Graves, Rufus Sewell, Heino Ferch, Klaus Loewitsch, Joe Absolom, Jana Pallaske