1996, R, 129 min. Directed by Stuart Baird. Starring Kurt Russell, Steven Seagal, Halle Berry, John Leguizamo, Joe Morton, Oliver Platt, David Suchet, B.D. Wong.
REVIEWED By Joey O'Bryan, Fri., March 22, 1996
For the first 20 minutes or so, Executive Decision couldn't look any more run-of-the-mill, or any more hopeless for that matter, as it opens with producer Joel Silver's title credit appearing with a shot of an anonymous villain being riddled with automatic gunfire. This is followed by some jumbled editing that relentlessly bounces the story from one remote continent to another, as the beginning of each new scene is accompanied by a new set of annoying intertitles. Then, just when you're about to give up on this seemingly sorry excuse for an action movie, the picture does an about-face in a matter of minutes, and pushes the tension level way into overdrive and transforms suddenly into a solidly entertaining thriller. Ignore the hokey plot -- it has something to do with a gung-ho anti-terrorist team trying to retake a hijacked 747 filled with lethal nerve gas from some stereotypical Middle Eastern terrorists, who, in the name of Allah, plan to detonate the plane over Washington, D.C. and rain deadly fallout on the capital -- and, instead, focus on the seemingly endless series of thrilling obstacles it creates for our heroes to overcome. Executive Decision has a set of heroes well worth cheering for: Kurt Russell, John Leguizamo, Halle Berry, Oliver Platt, and Joe Morton. All are fine actors, likable, and enormous fun to watch. Now, this is a talented ensemble for any movie, let alone the latest Joel Silver action extravaganza, and, thankfully, all these performers are given plenty of opportunities to shine, with each playing an important role in foiling the villains' plot. Curiously, the only member of the cast who doesn't get to do a whole lot is co-star Steven Seagal, whose combined screen time probably amounts to little more than 10 minutes, despite his prominent billing in the film's deceptive trailers. First-time director Stuart Baird, a former editor who worked with Silver on the original Die Hard, may not know how to set up a story, but he certainly understands the rhythms of suspense, as well as how to stage a crackling action sequence. Obviously, these are abilities that serve the film well, making it easy to sit back, enjoy the ride, and forget about the plot holes and utter familiarity of the whole affair (even though the final shot has been more or less lifted right out of Die Hard II). Of course, people don't go see Joel Silver movies looking for originality; you go to have a good time, and, if you can get over the hump of its rocky first act, Executive Decision provides one.