People mistake my fondness for watching B-movies as a fondness FOR B-movies. This is not the case. My fondness lies in finding a GOOD B-movie, because believe it or not they do actually exist, and when I find one I like being able to tell people about them. And I've found one in 1999's Active Stealth.
Now when I first went to watch Active Stealth, I had lots of jokes ready to go. So I took to Twitter...
It's true. I ended up shutting my word hole and enjoying the heck out of Active Stealth, despite its rampant use of stock footage, locations that are clearly just over a hill from a populated portion of Los Angeles, and the presence of a non-Alec Baldwin.
Believability is the most important part of any movie, because if I don't believe that a character is actually flying a plane for example, then why the hell am I watching it? It's obvious here that the actors are in mocked up cockpits, but they're matched well to the stock footage being used and are given control panels that aren't cheap looking. Little things like that go a long way.
The acting is fine from the veteran cast, and the story, well, let's just say I wouldn't be surprised if Stallone saw this thing at some point and accidentally incorporated plot details from it into The Expendables. There are quite a few similarities. Granted neither story was something new...
I'm not saying Active Stealth is anything great. It's not even Expendables great. But for a low budget action flick it deserves a chance. It's certainly superior to just about every Steven Seagal movie I've subjected myself to over the last 10 years.
Now Air Rage is almost an alternate universe follow-up to Active Stealth. In it, a group of Marines are charged with destroying a drug cartel's village against orders. The group's leader is sentenced to life in prison but is broken out during his prison transfer. He and his men then hijack a passenger jet, seeking revenge on the General who attempted to put them behind bars.
The film's star and hero, Ice-T, doesn't bother to show up until *40* minutes into the proceedings. He plays the main special forces dude who leads a team onboard the plane (and gets there via stock footage from the brilliantly entertaining Kurt Russell/Steven Seagal flick Executive Decision).
Here's what doesn't make a damn bit of sense though. Ice-T and his team (Ice-Team?) make it on board the airliner without incident. The plan, once aboard, is to put knockout gas in the plane's air supply and incapacitate everyone on board. The team would then capture the terrorists and land the plane safely. They start to enact this plan, but at the last minute Ice-T tells his men "Naw, fuck that! Flashbangs and uzis! Ready, go!" and then proceeds to get his entire team killed in a firefight that also somehow manages to avoid depressurizing the plane with a stray shot. T himself is shot in the leg, so for the rest of the film he has to depend on the plane's flight attendent to help him enact the first plan.
WTF movie? I mean, I understand the goal of your story was to get Ice-T wounded and alone so he would have to work with the stewardess lady, but this was the best way you could think of to do it?
There was a far more ingenious way to get to the exact same point staring them right in the face the whole time and they didn't go with it. One of the background passengers on the plane is a Walkman-listening, dreadlock-having dude who always seems to be hiding his face. Turns out he was indeed just an awkward background extra, but when I first saw him my thought was "Okay, that's Ice-T, he's an air marshall and that's his cover. Genius." It would have explained why it took the star of the film 40 minutes to appear AND would have let the story go in the exact same direction but without the truly insipid firefight.
Air Rage is competently made (again directed by Fred Olen Ray, although for some reason under the pseudonym of Ed Raymond), but the script is simply dreadful. Also, aside from the stock footage from Executive Decision, there's a stock footage sequence at the beginning of the film straight from Active Stealth (which itself was probably pulled from Flight of the Intruder, since that movie's sole existence seems to have been to provide future stock footage). I get the feeling that bit of action footage will become to Fred Olen Ray what that one specific car explosion is to Troma movies.
See the former, skip the latter.