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Vertical Limit
2000 - PG-13 - 124 Mins.
Director: Martin Campbell
Producer: Martin Campbell
Written By: Robert King
Starring: Chris O'Donnell Robin Tunney Scott Glenn Izabella Scorupco Bill Paxton
Review by: Greg Ursic
Having had any illusions of my own immortality shattered at a very young age (and sporting a selection of scars to remind me), I've always shied away from extreme sports. But, whether it's hand-feeding sharks, or jumping out of perfectly good airplanes on snowboards, there is no sport so outrageous that someone won't try it. In comparison, mountain climbing with ropes, axes, and the like practically borders on (just kidding).

The lives of Peter and Annie Garrett, members of a virtual climbing dynasty, diverge after a tragic accident. Two years later while on an assignment for National Geographic in Pakistan, Peter learns that his sister is taking part in an expedition on K2, Everest's little sister with the bad attitude. The expedition,a publicity stunt for bad boy billionaire Elliot Vaughn's new airline, quickly goes awry disaster strikes, and brother dearest sets out with a rescue team to save the day.

A friend that I invited to the preview screening of this movie could not make it. Dejected and annoyed, his parting shot before he hung up the phone was " Yeah, well I bet all the best scenes are in the trailer anyways". I was determined that I would enjoy this movie just so I could call him up and tell him what he missed. Based on the opening sequence - a "you'll-chew-on-the-nails-of-the-person-sitting-beside-you" kind of scene - I didn't think I'd make it out of the lobby before I called him. My optimism soon received a swift kick in the groin.

Although all, save two of the action sequences, are featured in the trailers, it is fun to watch them unfold onscreen within the proper context, and they do pretty impressive. There are also some stunning vertigo inducing cinematography, playful scenes with snow leopards, and some decent CGI shots. The problem is there is a whole lot of film in between that is painful to sit through.

With the exception of Scott Glenn, who has had some actual dramatic roles, the rest of the cast seemed to be a bit fuzzy with the concept of acting. O'Donnell overacts so badly he may as well be in a high school play (learn to emote Chris), whereas Bill Paxton' s take on being menacing left me in tears I was laughing so hard. Ms. Tunney meanwhile, was epitomizes banality. The only enjoyable characters are the pithy wisecracking Kiwi mountain-climbing brothers who steal every scene they're in. The writers also deserve their share of the blame.

There is not a single "twist" that came as a surprise to anyone in the viewing audience - a drunken boxer couldn't telegraph punches any worse. I fully expected a prompter to appear in the upper right hand corner and say "Okay, here's what will happen next". I will not spoil any scenes (I'll let the film do that), but suffice it to say, my five year old nephew could write a more smoothly flowing coherent script (of course then he'd option it and never take my calls again…). If I said the dialogue is awful, I would be giving it more credit than it is due - the lines are that bad. Enough said.

While some of the special effects were decent, others tested the bounds of the tackiest 50 B movies. The walls of the crevasse look as though they've been hewn out of those cheezy Styrofoam coolers you throw away after a day at the beach, and snowflakes refuse to melt even when they land on exposed skin or are breathed on. And what's with the nuclear powered fluorescent green nitroglycerin that explodes when exposed to sunlight but not when someone jumps on it? But the Monty Python award for most ludicrous scene has to be Odonnel's "triumphant" moment: after several hours of exhausting climbing, suddenly he summons the strength to sprint through knee-deep snow and jump a 50 foot chasm all without the benefit of oxygen at 25,000 feet.

At least I can say that I got some great laughs out of this film. Some of them were even intentional.
Movie Guru Rating
Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better. Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better.
  2 out of 5 stars

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