Space…the final frontier…for Michael Dudikoff’s acting career! The Dude (American Ninja, Black Thunder caps off a quarter century of filmmaking the biggest (or at least as big as an extremely low budget would allow) way possible with 2002’s Black Horizon (aka Stranded) that sees him kicking ass in outer space, having kicked all of it on Earth already! And while he didn’t actually lay a whupping on anyone worse than making a few snarky comments as shuttle commander Ed Carpenter, he was kicking space’s ass by spacewalking all over it!
The movie of course is one of those “sucks infinitely worse than a million black holes” affairs, but absolutely none of that can be laid at the feet of the Dude. The Dude, sporting a nice military style haircut, is equally at ease whether hazing the new guy on his team by making him barf by doing all kinds of rolls during a fighter jet flight, or flipping switches on old Apollo capsules being used as escape pods, or cracking jokes at the end of the mission about his love of flying, ice cream, and sex! It’s just everything else that goes on that makes you want to take a running leap through the nearest airlock.
The story is built to cause the viewer the maximum number of boredom G-forces that NASA allows. A Russian space station is falling out of orbit and the Dude and his crew take a space shuttle (they claim it’s Atlantis, but the stock launch footage clearly shows it’s Discovery) up there to rescue the Cosmonauts aboard it. But these Cosmonauts aren’t just up there watching what happens when a monkey farts while weightless. They’re working on the Prometheus project. As one character moronically explains, it’s like a giant magnifying glass that will be pointed at the sun and somehow we’ll get an endless supply of energy from it.
The NSA wants to steal the data from the Russians so they send up a guy with the Dude’s crew (he vaguely claims to be the “science officer” when he boards the space station), but this guy spends all his time trying to rescue trapped Cosmonauts, gets himself killed and no one ever mentions the data theft operation again.
Even worse, there is of course an evil business man back on Earth who is working with a Russian general and caused the sabotage to the space station in the first place! Why? So that Prometheus could be destroyed so that no one would realize it didn’t work. Or something.
But you know what makes him even more evil? The woman working on the project on the space station is his niece! It’s not so bad though because he explains to the Russian general that he and his niece aren’t very close! The most evil part of this scheme though is yet to be revealed! The secret agent for the government trying to take this guy down? Ice T.
Like an unwanted sex scene between an ugly guy and a homely, but obviously augmented gal that clogs up your low rent martial arts action movie, all of Ice T’s scenes can be safely fast forwarded through. This especially goes for the first ten minutes of the movie which involve him in some completely unrelated mission, that had me double checking whether I was even watching a movie about the Dude in outer space.
The only purpose for any of Ice T’s scenes is that he gets the launch codes for the Apollo capsules from the Russian general. But before that, you have to put up with boring shoot outs, dull car chases, and Ice T incompetently staking out the bad guys (they immediately see him on their surveillance cameras) while what you’re really concerned with is whether the Dude figured out how he was going to separate the shuttle from the space station without it being a suicide mission.
Of course the entire sabotage scheme was completely ill thought out. Didn’t the people involved take into account that we might send a shuttle up to get the Cosmonauts before the space station crashed? The only reason their plan even came close to working was because of a freak meteor storm that damaged both the station and the shuttle! If there was no meteor storm, this movie would’ve been over in ten minutes! If you’re an evil business man trying to commit murder in outer space, you shouldn’t have to depend on a one in a million meteor shower no one saw coming to bail your dimwitted butt out!
The film also suffers from the not unexpected substandard special effects (stock footage, unconvincing models, fake-looking explosions, no attempt to hide the wires being used during spacewalks, special guest star Andrew Stevens’ hair color), as well as dingbat stuff like having the space station use an elevator to go from the main part to the lab which requires the use of two different airlocks. Why wouldn’t the lab just be part of the space station? Why design it so that there’s all sorts of parts that could fail and trap people in the lab?
The Dude does everything he can with what he is given to do (mainly walk around in a bright orange NASA jump suit), but can’t save a movie destined to be known as “the movie that made Jeff Speakman‘s Scropio One the winner of the Oscar’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Best Space Station Picture Starring an Aging B-Movie Martal Arts Star.”
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