As you may remember, I got pretty excited at the prospect of the as-yet-unreleased, star-un-studded “Beyond The Game”, also written by J Stephen Maunder. Well, that might be tough to find, but we were able to locate a copy of what would appear to be a trial run for that, 2010’s “Shadows In Paradise”. Mark Dacascos! Armand Assante! Bruce Boxleitner! Danny Trejo! Tom Sizemore! Vernon Wells! Andrew Divoff! A veritable “are they still working?” list of Hollywood’s finest, in some cases hired for more than a day!
Dacascos (aged 45 at the time of filming) is Lt. Max Forrester, part of a squad of soldiers taking down some terrorist base in a Middle East that looks an awful lot like Arizona scrub-land; one of the others is his fiancée, Lt Sasha Villanoff (Sofya Skya). More on her later, but she was 22 at the time of filming – good old Hollywood standards! Anyway, they get separated when bombs start flying, and Forrester’s CO, Col. Bunker (Sizemore) wrestles him away from the danger zone. He makes it out and she doesn’t.
Two years later, Forrester is living the sweet civilian life, when his old army buddy, Cpt. Dyer (Boxleitner) informs him that they’ve got evidence Sasha is still alive! Perhaps that sentence didn’t deserve an exclamation mark. Anyway, she’s on an island off the coast of either Libya or Kuwait (I wasn’t listening at that moment) and because she, a normal US Army grunt, has apparently got loads of secrets, they’re about to send in “Special Forces” to arrest / kill her. Max has two days to find her.
Luckily, she’s literally the first person he sees when he strolls into the island’s one village. Now, it’s not outside the realms of possibility, I suppose, but there’s a heck of a lot of white guys wandering round this Middle Eastern village, which only looks slightly faker than the town from “Blazing Saddles”. Anyway, she’s not happy to see him at all, and from this curious reaction springs a tale. First, the CIA goes in; then the Special Forces team, which is Assante, Trejo, and some cannon fodder, one of whom is perhaps the most aggressively predatory lesbian ever captured on film – you could tell the producers wanted Michelle Rodriguez, but when she sensibly turned them down they hired a lookalike.
Forrester is all “we have to get out of here right now” but instead of doing that they go back to his hotel room and have sex, then sleep in. Like no-one bothered reading their own script, or something. No, I don’t think that scene was put in just so we could see Sofya Skya in her underwear, perish the thought. But this whole scene leads to my chief criticism.
What’s most noteworthy about “Shadows In Paradise” is how sloppy it is. Lines are flubbed left, right and centre; the sets look absolutely pathetic; and there’s a scene where Sasha’s backpack falls off as she slips down a hill, and it’s in shot for ages as she runs off; then in the next scene it’s back on her shoulder. I get the feeling there weren’t a lot of take 2s in this movie, probably due to them having very limited schedules with most of their stars. It becomes a funny little game, to spot which actors were only hired for a day and had all their scenes in the same location – Boxleitner for one, and Vernon Wells does his entire part sat down at a table.
But we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the sloppiest bit of all. Right at the end, one of the villains (no spoilers) is escaping with two briefcases full of cash, and out of nowhere Forrester produces a rocket launcher. The car has been driving away for maybe 30 seconds by the time the rocket is fired, but when you see it impact the car is both stationary and about 50 yards away from where it started! Come on, movie!
As if to make sure the sloppy bits didn’t feel lonely, writer / director Maunder makes sure to fill it with monstrous logic holes too. While tracking down Sasha, Forrester finds himself outside a house with guards outside it, and kills one of them to stop from being discovered. He has no idea where he is, if the people are good guys or not, but feels okay to kill them? Then, near the end, Vernon Wells (as the Army General) tells Dacascos to do his best and try and stop the big sale of Stinger missiles, because there’s no backup nearby. Next breath, he orders an airstrike as it’s too risky to just trust one guy. Er, why didn’t he just say “we’ll call in an air strike, you get out of there”? Yes, the plot, the thing that Sasha felt unable to tell anyone until way too late (a missile sale to Al Qaeda was going down), was perfectly reasonable information for other people to have way earlier on, as the withholding of that information nearly killed her fiancée, who she apparently loved still. And if I saw one more scene where someone had a gun on someone else, but was stood too close so it was super-easy to disarm them, I was going to throw a boot at the TV.
Perhaps a little deeper, how many really old soldiers were there in this movie? The two captains we see were 60 and 59 (get some promotions, boys, you’re too damn old) and soldier-badass Trejo was 65. I’m willing to bet there’s not a single person on an active duty squad like that who’s a day over 40, 45 at the absolute outside.
I don’t like being cynical, but this has the air of a tax dodge, or money laundering, about it. Shoddily made, a random selection of “stars” of yesteryear, cheap sets and a dumb plot; then there’s Sofya Skya. She’s a very beautiful woman, and at least the acting equal of anyone in the cast, but…she also sings the theme tune, and is married to a Russian billionaire who looks like this:
It’s not the biggest stretch to suggest some of his money was spent, on the proviso his wife got a leading role. And that there’s something slightly fishy about this whole operation; look at the cast list of this, “Blizhniy Boy” and “Beyond The Game”. A fan of 80s and 90s action hires his old favourites, at least those favourites who don’t mind who they work with. This could all, of course, be baseless speculation (please don’t kill me if you’re really bad lads, I can be bought off very cheaply).
There’s entertaining stuff here, partly just from seeing so many old favourites, but it’s really lazy.
Rating: thumbs down