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Mind-Numbing, By-the-Numbers "Stealth" Bombs

  • Jeffrey Huston Contributing Writer
  • 2005 7 Jul
  • COMMENTS
Mind-Numbing, By-the-Numbers "Stealth" Bombs

Release Date:  July 29, 2005
Rating:  PG-13 (intense action, some violence, strong language and innuendo)
Genre:  Action
Run Time:  111 min
Director:  Rob Cohen
Actors:  Josh Lucas, Jessica Biel, Jamie Foxx, Sam Shepard, Joe Morton, Richard Roxburgh

Despite a handful of huge blockbusters, this year’s box office tally has been well below the record haul of 2004.  Week in and week out, the Hollywood establishment is looking for the next big release that will bring masses back to theaters.  Unfortunately for them, “Stealth” isn't about to do them any favors.  That’s because it doesn’t do audiences any favors either.  So do yourself one and stay far away from this mind-numbing disaster.

A by-the-numbers insult, “Stealth” follows the overly-scripted adventures of an elite fighter-pilot trio.  These top guns are the “best of the best”, and as action fans know that is defined by the ability to deliver a cocky wisecrack after every hot shot move you perform.  Other compulsory traits include filling all base demographics (white male, black male, and female – what, no Hispanic?!) and at least two of the three must be hot while one of the two guys can get by with just being comic relief.  Well lucky for us all three are knockouts (creative genius!), a fact reinforced as the film shows off their bods in an R&R-in-the-tropics sequence.

That beefcake break comes after the premise has been set: this tight-knit trifecta has just been forced to take on a fourth wingman.  The group adamantly resists, but their deepest concerns can’t predict how difficult the new wingman will be – since it isn’t a man at all.  It’s a plane.  Well, a stealth-fighter – a top secret stealth-fighter to be specific, one that operates itself free of any pilot.  And if its inevitable moment of developing a mind of its own wasn’t obvious enough, the second you hear its polite-but-creepy HAL-like drone you realize this is yet another generic parable about the dangers of evolving technology free of any human control.  It’s a premise that’s been done (and done better) many times before.

To see some of these self-serious scenes unfold, though, you’d think the makers of “Stealth” believe their story is the first to ponder this heady issue.  Obligatory debates are forced in with key characters conveniently representing all sides; one argues against the dangers, another for the benefits, both invoke moral stands, while others see the middle ground.  Once those bases are covered with rote and obvious points (a lame attempt at being thought-provoking) the debate ends in a draw, resigning us to the only conclusion possible, i.e. the naysayer’s gut premonition “I dunno – I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”  Boy, that stumped ‘em!  Thanks for the insight, dude.  The bad feeling is predictably proven true as this stealth robot turns on its team and goes ballistic on the masses.

Of course it’s the high-flying pyrotechnic scenes (not the requisite “intellectual” interludes) that make up most of “Stealth”’s laboriously drawn-out running time, and they crash and burn miserably as both story and special effects extravaganza.  Visually it’s horrible; the ships are poorly designed, the flight action is obviously fake (think back to “Top Gun” as comparison), and only one shot (a mid-air ring of fire) makes you think “wow”.  Director Rob Cohen was so busy trying to make his aerial sequences look impressive that he forgot to make them feel authentic.

The narrative is equally sloppy; missions are ill-defined, plot developments are predictable, and eventually the movie simply doesn’t know what to do with itself (best exemplified by a completely distracting – and boring – third-act subplot involving the female pilot’s fight for survival behind enemy lines).  The film’s only boast is that it’s loud, thus making it stealth in name only.  But hey – at least when the robot jet goes renegade it cranks hard-driving rock tunes as it unleashes its heartless destruction.  Sure it may be evil, but man, its iPod playlists are the coolest!

The film’s violence is mostly action-oriented shoot-em-ups and explosions, although an off-screen suicide is implied.  Language (while not pervasive) is peppered throughout, there are brief moments of drinking, sexual innuendos – though mild – crop up, and brief moments of flirting and kissing (including open-mouth) occur early on.  There are moments of sexual tension between leads Josh Lucas and Jessica Biel, too, but they are there in script only as absolutely zero chemistry exists between the two.  Their romantic exchanges have all the passion of two blue-collar workers punching in their timecards.

Lucas is especially miscast as the swaggering, rule-breaking hot shot leader; beyond a nice smile, the guy has no magnetism or charm to speak of.  Jamie Foxx is mostly muted as well, bringing hints of charisma only in the few moments he was obviously allowed to improvise.  Clearly this supporting role was one he signed on for before his worthy Oscar win, and hopefully it’ll be the last he slums in. 

As for director Cohen, he boasts a track-record of making blockbusters that produce sequels (“XXX” and “The Fast and the Furious”).  Something tells me that streak is about to end, though, as “Stealth” merely flies under the radar and glides on autopilot.

AUDIENCE:  Mature teens and adults

OBJECTIONABLE CONTENT:

  • Drugs/Alcohol Content:  Leads drink martinis at a bar.

  • Language/Profanity:  Language heard throughout, although not constantly.  “S” and “A” are most common, but others (including SOB, GD, an F-word) are heard at least once.  Biel extends both middle-fingers at one point.  Crude slang for genitalia used as name-calling.

  • Sexual Content/Nudity:  Moment of open-mouth kissing.  Man stares at breasts (seen in close-up).  Moments of sexual/romantic tension.  Non-graphic but intentional innuendos.

  • Violence/Other:  Action violence throughout (explosions, destruction, a third-world town wiped out).  Off-screen suicide implied.  Bloody cuts and injuries.