Executive Target (1997) / Action-Thriller

MPAA Rated: R for language, violence, nudity, and sensuality
Running Time: 100 min.

Cast: Michael Madsen, Keith David, Roy Scheider, Angie Everhart, Dayton Callie, Kathy Christopherson, Gareth Williams, Jacobsen Hart
Director: Joseph Merhi
Screenplay: Dayton Callie, Jacobsen Hart
Review published November 20, 2005

Liberally borrowing more than one page from the Bay/Bruckheimer school of filmmaking, Executive Target seeks to emulate the style of the biggest summer blockbusters of the mid-90s.  As soon as you hear the music, which is nearly an identical carbon copy of the score from The Rock, you know what the makers of this b-movie are aiming for.  From Speed, The Fugitive, Con Air, and Heat, and perhaps a half dozen more notable hits, Executive Target soaks all of the best action scenes from them up like a sponge, regurgitating them out for us to lap up all over again.  Unfortunately, like most water you wring out of a well-used sponge, the water smells moldy, unfit for consumption, save for the few brave souls that like the smell of rancid pollution.

Executive Target starts off with an explosive prison breakout sequence, where a bus carrying a load of dangerous prisoners is overturned and busted in order to secure the early release of Nick James (Madsen, Reservoir Dogs), a former stunt car driver with only one year left on his sentence.  Nick doesn't know why he is being sprung, but he soon finds out when his wife (Christopherson, Guyver: Dark Hero) is abducted, forcing him to play ball with a nefarious madman named Lamar (David, Volcano), a greedy genius looking to make a huge score with Nick as his getaway car driver.  Lamar has two goals in mind: to heist a bank for the needed funds to carry through on an even more large scale operation -- the kidnapping and ransom of the President of the United States (Scheider, Blue Thunder) to the highest bidder.

There are a couple of ways one can look at a movie like Executive Target.  One way is as a standard action movie, with lots of gunfights, explosions, dastardly villains, and high-tech gadgetry.  From this standpoint, it is an utter failure.  The stuntwork is waaaaaay over-the-top, with cars, trucks, and even people exploding from the slightest impact of other vehicles or bullets.  Cars jump over obstacles and fly into the air, defying all laws of physics.  The acting is about as over-the-top as the action, with a cast mostly picked for their looks over their abilities to recite their silly lines with flair.  Somehow, despite all of it, the veteran actors, Madsen, David, and Scheider come out unscathed.

The other way to look at Executive Target is as a trashy b-movie.  If you go into the movie expecting absolutely nothing but derivative schlock to laugh at, you will be rewarded with one of the more engaging straight-to-video releases around.  Unlike most STV productions, it is obvious that a large pile of money went to make this one, with an amazing amount of car wrecks and carnage on display, blowing up big, loud, and expensive.  Despite the modest cast and studio support, Executive Target looks and feels like the movies it tries to emulate, and with a better script, might have even had a chance to actually play with the big boys with a theatrical release.

Executive Target has a more than average share of flaws, many of them enough to sink any movie they appear in, but given that the only goal of the film is to entertain undiscriminating action fans, it's hard to really gripe.  It's stupid, obnoxious, and preposterous, and believe it or not, there is an audience out there that likes movies like that.  If you enjoyed the aforementioned Con Air, The Rock, Speed, and every other dumb popcorn action movie of the mid-1990s, you'll probably give this one a passing grade.  Executive Target is no bull's-eye, even by b-movie standards, but with its sense of humor and high-octane action pieces, it's not out-and-out bullsh*t either. Good for those that like 'em bad.

  Qwipster's rating:

2005 Vince Leo