After checking out a thoroughly average, if very early, SyFy Channel original movie last week, I didn’t have much hope for this one. I remembered all the dull plots and lack of action and dumb suplots and ugly sets, and forgot the ones I’d enjoyed; that turns out to have been a mistake. “Cold Fusion” is rarely mentioned in “favourite SyFy movie” conversations – perhaps because very few people have those sorts of conversations – even though it’s really rather good.
Adrian Paul! Forever in our hearts thanks to “Highlander: The Series”, he’s got form in this field, appearing in “Apocalypse Pompeii”, “AE: Apocalypse Earth” and “Lost Colony: The Legend Of Roanoake”, among others. I get the feeling he either thought he was a bigger deal than he really was, at the end of Highlander’s run, or had an agent pouring sugar in his ear; either way, the relative failure of the Highlander movies with him in, meant that within a couple of years he was back on TV in “Tracker”, a one-series-and-cancelled genre show. Since then, it’s been starring roles in low-budget movies like this, trading on his former success, and while I think he had the talent to do more, he’s probably found a comfortable level for himself.
Two UFOs crash on Earth, one in Russia, the other in the USA. They appear the same, classic flying saucers, and before much of anything happens with them we’re flung decades into the future – the present day, in other words. Paul, who these days looks as if he’s permanently just shaved, but the bit he shaved isn’t quite as tanned as the rest of his face, is Unger, an Army guy. He’s part of some super-secret / powerful branch of the Armed Forces that can evidently go toe-to-toe with the CIA, and is dispatched to the site of a gigantic terrorist attack.
Right here, about 20 minutes in, my friend Julie and I looked at each other and I was like “ooh, this is a bit too close to the truth”. Unger, unhappy with just blaming it on Iran and sending the troops in, details a series of false-flag operations carried out by Governments in order to build up support for a war (and increase military spending on both sides, of course); and the using of “real” terrorism to inspire war also. It’s well-written by someone who had a bee in their bonnet about this exact thing, I’m guessing. Anyway, Unger needs his best spy on the job, and luckily we’ve already met her too – Lisa (Sarah Brown, better known as a stunt performer). Lisa kicked the ass of an Antarctic base full of Russian baddies, and it’s her intel along with Unger’s almost supernatural powers of deduction that kick the movie off. When there’s a similar attack in Russia, everyone leaps into action, and she’s got to go to the Ukraine, liaise with an undercover agent they already have there, and find out where their terrorists are getting these incredibly powerful, untraceable bombs from.
Up to this point, the movie’s been pretty good, if a trifle on the cheap-looking side. Then Lisa goes to Ukraine and meets her contact Ekaterina (Michelle Lee), who’s gone undercover as…an “exotic dancer”. Lisa has to do the same job, so we get an extremely extended demonstration dance, as well as an entire routine later on in the movie. I mean, I can’t speak for their abilities as purveyors of the burlesque arts, but I’m really not sure if we need ten minutes of ladies dancing in their undies in this movie about aliens and terrorism and such.
So it turns out to be a big conspiracy, of course, and Lisa and Ekaterina have to kick a ton of ass, destroy the Ukrainian base with the UFO in it, and get home to help Unger expose the conspiracy. And all that stuff is again quite good (Lee and Brown both looking decent in the fight scenes, there’s a good bit of comic relief from one of the Russian scientists, too).
If you look at the IMDB listing, Paul is top-billed, and there’s no way he should be. He’s in the movie for about ten minutes and only shows up at three locations – a burned out street, a computer-filled nerve centre and a generic office. Brown is far better than any stuntperson-turned-actor has any right to be, and it’s sort of surprising she didn’t try and get more straight action roles; I’d call her the star of this, despite her being weirdly passive at times (and the whole subplot about finding out why her Dad was a baddie agent was almost the definition of filler, if we’d not already had tons of dancing used the same way).
It’s an interesting idea, about the uses we’d probably put alien technology to, and how the military-industrial complex actually wants more war, all the time; it’s got a couple of decent central performances; another pass or two at the screenplay would have been nice, but it’s SyFy and we take what we can get.
Rating: thumbs in the middle