Phase IV pretty much lives down to your expectations of a Canadian-lensed yarn starring Dean Cain (Final Encounter) and Brian “The Boz” Bosworth (Mach 2, the Oklahoma Sooners) about an evil pharmaceutical company trying to cover up that they went and accidentally cured the HIV virus! It’s a film that at least tries hard to be action-packed with frequent car chases, explosions and Dean Cain getting hit in his bad knee over and over. But it is also a film that is effortlessly stupid in its execution of all this.
For instance, Cain is using a pay phone which just happens to be placed in the middle of a street for some reason just so the bad guys can crash into it in an effort to eliminate Cain’s nosy reporter character. Maybe that’s just how run their pay phones in Canada. I haven’t even seen a pay phone in five years, so who knows, right?
But if this drug company is going to go to all the trouble and risk of murdering about half the population of New England University (seriously – they kill five students, a doctor, a scientist, and the editor of the school newspaper and keep trying to kill Cain, kidnap his family and a candidate for Senate!), wouldn’t prudence dictate that they be a bit more circumspect than to try to run over multiple people with a very distinctive green and black muscle car?
But then again, this is the same company who is using a police detective (the Boz) as their chief enforcer. This is handy since he is also investigating the crimes they are responsible for, but you have to wonder why nobody in the police department or media asks why the Boz is all over town ordering thugs to go after people, appearing with the head of the drug company at the opening of a research center, and surely most perplexing of all, why he’s hanging out of a helicopter shooting up the Senate candidate’s Town Car with an automatic weapon in hopes of killing Cain! (As if to prove he might be suffering post concussion-like symptoms from his pro football days, when the Boz confronts the occupant of the Town Car he just shot up and sees it’s not Cain, instead of killing this witness, he just leaves!)
Cain plays Simon Tate, a journalist for the school newspaper with enough backstory for two action heroes. He was a high school football star. He was at the Naval Academy, but was kicked out for using steroids. He has Navy SEAL training. He is rehabbing his blown out knee. The doctor in charge of testing the new HIV drug is his close friend who got him into NEU after the steroid scandal. He is now a reporter. And he has a wife and kid that can be terrorized when the plot demands it.
Whew! If only he had a MacGyver-like ability to cobble together a deathtrap on the football field during the final confrontation with the bad guys! Oh wait, he can do that, too!
Simon’s doctor pal notices that all his patients from Phase II of the HIV drug program are dying in mysterious car accidents and skiing accidents. He tries to warn one of the surviving subjects, but his clumsy efforts only get him noticed by the bad guys who promptly frame him for her murder. Showing the same The Fugitive-inspired inspiration later on in the film, they also frame Simon for the murder of his boss, even while Simon was busy almost getting run down by another member of the Boz’s crew. Framing him for murder even as you are attempting to kill him seems like a waste of resources, but that makes as much sense as having him arrested just so you can murder him later.
Of course in order for the movie to take as long as it does, the Boz and his gang of thugs are required to be grossly incompetent, which leads to moronic schemes like the one where they invade Simon’s home in broad daylight wearing goofy dwarf and Santa masks. That’s not going arouse any suspicion is it?
And why doesn’t the Boz just shoot Simon at the end of the movie instead of putting his gun down so they can brawl in the science lab until the Boz ends up impaled on a scalpel? And why would a U.S. Senator be in the car with the kidnapped family, kidnapped Senate candidate, evil thugs and head of the drug company? Just so he can explain everything to Simon before the movie ends?
And if you sat through all of the run-of-the-mill action sequences made possible by the non-stop illogical conduct of the movie’s characters because you’re dying to know what Phase IV is, well, the movie doesn’t let you down there either by immediately letting you down when you discover that Phase IV is… the status quo! (Keep HIV uncured and continue to make money selling drugs to treat the disease.)
Beyond forgettable and devoid of anything other than persistent blandness and a pervasive ability to disengage the viewer with its lazy writing, Phase V of Phase IV is trying to stop feeling like the Boz repeatedly whacked your knee with a billy club once the movie’s finished.
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