Power Elite (2002)

If the sort of movie where a guy goes from Blue Angels pilot to security guard to the only guy who can rescue the President and defuse a chemical weapon hidden in the tunnels underneath the Golden Gate Bridge sounds like the beyond absurd action fantasy you just can’t pass up, you should still pass up Power Elite. And pass it up before to paraphrase star Olivier Gruner‘s best (and one of the few intelligible) lines in the film, you get tied up to a tree and left for the real drag queens!

Surprisingly, despite drag queens being brought up as an insult during the middle of a tension-filled mission, Power Elite isn’t the macho display of uncompromising locker room dialogue which gives you a chance to catch your breath between explosive action set pieces so much as it is a showcase for why director/co-writer/producer/cinematographer David Huey should be quarantined by the World Health Organization from ever getting within 500 miles of any piece of equipment capable of recording video.

To say that Huey can’t shoot a movie such that the viewer isn’t driven to the point of distraction by the laptop special effects and editing that he must have farmed out to a relative’s grade school kid is a bit like saying that he can’t co-write a movie that takes the simplest plot imaginable and somehow makes it a near incomprehensible mess to the point you wonder if you had stumbled onto one of Donald G. Jackson’s “Zen Filmmaking” efforts. In short – an understatement of the grossest sort. (Ironically, Huey would replace Jackson as director on Pocket Ninjas precisely because the Zen Filmmaking wasn’t really working for that film!)

One has to really focus to explain what went wrong with Power Elite because it all went wrong! First of all, Gruner and two other guys are with the Blue Angels. After their careers with the Angels ends, Gruner becomes a rent-a-cop at a secret lab where chemical weapons are being manufactured, his buddy Malone becomes a Secret Service agent and his other buddy Caine becomes President of the United States. How does a stint with the Blue Angels start a career path to any of those jobs?

But would you even care if it all leads to a bad ass mission to rescue an old friend from a bunch sneering terrorists? Sadly, the President is just an old turd bent on sucking up to globalists by signing a chemical weapons ban treaty, the Secret Service agency is an embarrassment to law enforcement officers everywhere (he fails to protect the President from getting kidnapped when a terrorist gets the drop on him because he is busy taking his sunglasses off!), and the usually barely reliable Gruner spends a lot of the film looking vaguely confused as to just what the hell kind of amateur hour he accidentally signed on for.

Gruner’s involvement in the missions doesn’t even make any sense. After all, he’s just a security guard. And not just any security guard, but the security guard who was on duty at the lab when the biological agent was stolen.

So what exactly does being a pilot and security guard do that makes him the man to lead a team to rescue the President? He has an ex girlfriend and she’s the Secretary of State or an intern or something who can keep the Vice President on hold! An ex-girlfriend who was stolen from Gruner by his buddy Malone, the Secret Service agent! And now Malone is going on the rescue mission with Gruner! With three other guys who were apparently SEALs. And they spend the bulk of the mission walking around the woods arguing and calling each other drag queens! It all makes you wonder if this movie wasn’t secretly funded by one of America’s enemies to demoralize us!

It’s the technical deficiencies though that are so outstanding that the actors and the story get a pass despite them being so horrible you’d rather rub dog feces in your eyes than endure either. It would take a staff of hundreds to catalog every problem scene, edit, montage, effect, and seemingly random shot inserted willy-nilly, but a few will suffice to give a flavor of things.

For example, when the terrorists blow up Air Force One, they are actually blowing up a freeze frame of something that might have been Air Force One culled from stock footage. And a lot of the shots of helicopters and aircraft taking off and landing are so jittery and oddly fuzzy that you’re not sure if director Huey is using some strange camera effect or it was just the result of him having to sneak into an airfield and film surreptitiously. Even scenes where the President is giving a speech to a group of people appear as if he was doing it in front of green screen, like they couldn’t even pay a crowd for about a half hour or at least force the crew to simulate an audience!

A movie so defective that what should have been one of its shining moments, the rescuing of the President, actually happened offscreen and all we saw was one old-looking ambulance driving away with the President in it, can’t even manage to get the ending right where the characters stand around after it’s all said done and laugh at some dumb comment.

Gruner, Malone and the girl they both love are standing around and Malone confirms Gruner’s earlier belief that she can’t cook. Gruner then announces “well, I can cook” and gives a creepy smirk, leaving me to wonder if that was some sort of weird invitation to Malone! Hopefully this unsettling bit was Gruner’s last second “screw you” to the filmmakers who just flat out embarrassed him for the previous 90 minutes.

© 2017 MonsterHunter

3 thoughts on “Power Elite (2002)

  1. Has Olvier Gruner ever been in a half decent picture? Every movie I know where he is the lead or at least has a relevant role is either very poor or has received some underwear-soiling reviews.

  2. Not that I know of. With his accent and lack of charisma, he comes off as poor man’s Van Damme, which isn’t exactly a compliment. Certainly some are more enjoyably bad than others – Angel Town and Nemesis are far easier to digest than something like Power Elite, but it’s sort of amazing the number of movies he’s headlined.

  3. I may be alone in this, but I am a big fan of Gruner’s Mercenary (1996) with John Ritter. I also really liked Automatic (1995, Savate (1995) and Velocity Trap (1999). But the 2000’s have not been kind to him.

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