Dir:Rob Cohen. US. 2005. 119mins.

RobCohen's latest big-budget B-movie has the cheesiness of the director's XXXand The Fast And The Furious but none of the saving graces that helpedturn those two outings into entertaining as well as widely appealing summerhits. An airborne action adventure with a US military setting and the specialeffects front and centre, Stealth comes across as a cartoonish update -with a sci-fi twist - of eighties flyboy blockbuster Top Gun. And assuch, while it may well hit the target for video game-playing teenage boys itcould struggle to reach out to a much broader audience.

Themale teens - who will also spark to the presence of co-star Jessica Biel (fromthe Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake and TV's 7th Heaven) - willprobably give Stealth a decent start when it opens in the US throughColumbia this weekend.

Broaderaudiences may be drawn by the relatively small role played, in his firstappearance since winning the Oscar for Ray, by Jamie Foxx. But holdingon for long in the late summer marketplace still seems like a tall order.

Theappeal could be narrower in the international marketplace, where Sony PicturesReleasing International distributes. The effects, of course, will easilytranslate, but the lack of star power will be a drawback. And internationalaudiences will have a particularly hard time swallowing the film's occasionallycringe-inducing attempts to offset its military swagger with doses of post-ColdWar enlightened globalism.

Thescript by veteran W D Richter (Invasion Of The Body Snatchers) is set ina high-tech near future where smart weapons have become even brainier than theyare now.

JoshLucas (from Sweet Home Alabama), Biel and Foxx play US Navy test pilotsflying a new breed of top-secret stealth fighter jet. Just before a mission tobomb a meeting of terrorist leaders, the close-knit team is introduced by itsno nonsense commanding officer (Shepard) to a new member - an artificialintelligence-based unmanned aircraft known as EDI, or Eddie.

Themission goes well, but on the team's next outing Eddie - who speaks with avoice apparently borrowed from 2001's HAL - starts to develop a mind ofhis own and heads off on a quest that could start a worldwide nuclear war.

Theflying sequences are clearly Stealth's raison d'etre (and the reason forits reported $120m-plus budget). Achieved with CG effects, a special flightsimulator and the help of a new technique for generating digital backgrounds,the sequences are impressive in a video game sort of way. But they neverdeliver the visceral thrills that Cohen managed with, for example, thescreeching, crunching car action of The Fast And The Furious. And insome cases they end up feeling about as real as an episode of Thunderbirds.

Inbetween its airborne set pieces, Stealth is an often-ludicrousassemblage of action cliches, jargon-heavy dialogue and unlikely plot twists.There are a few cursory attempts to give the pilots some character background,and an occasional touch of romance.

Forthe most part, though, the three main characters remain little more thanstereotypes and none ever comes close to the bad boy appeal of Vin Diesel'scharacters in Cohen's two earlier action hits.

Columbia Pictures
Original Film
Phoenix Pictures


Sony Pictures Releasing International

E Bennett Walsh
Arnold W Messer

Laura Ziskin
Mike Medavoy
Neal H Moritz

W D Richter

Dean Semler

J Michael Riva
Jonathan Lee

Stephen Rivkin


Josh Lucas
Jessica Biel
Jamie Foxx
Sam Shepard
Joe Morton
Richard Roxburgh