Daylight is a taut and tense Stallone thriller
Strange isn't it? Stallone seems to make one good movie and then a run of bad ones. I feel very bad for Stallone because he tries hard to make the movie entertaining, but the story doesn't hold together and the other actors are usually boring. His two last hits were Cliffhanger and Demolition Man. However, after that he had three bombs, The Specialist, Judge Dredd, and Assassins (although the last one was a little entertaining).
So I guess it was about time for Stallone to have a good movie. And boy does he hit it big. This disaster flick is filled with tension and suspense that you bite the nails off of your own hands, and the hands of your friends sitting with you. In fact, it may be more tense than the movie it steals most of its plot from, The Poseidon Adventure. But one of the few problems with the movie is that it doesn't take its time to introduce its characters like "Poseidon" did. Instead, it gives us about ten minutes to learn about ten characters, and then sets up for the first main plot twist. From there, it's all tense action in which we almost don't care about the characters. Almost.
Sylvester Stallone plays Kit Latura, a disgraced EMS worker who was fired after he was blamed for the accidental deaths of some coworkers (sound a little like Cliffhanger, doesn't it?). Now, he's taken up a job as a New York cabbie. Not only do we learn about him (who comes in close to the end of the introduction period), but we also learn about a struggling playwright (Amy Brenneman), a business tycoon (Viggo Mortensen), an older couple who have lost their son and love their dog (Colin Fox and Claire Bloom), several prisoners in a transport vehicle, and a noble black tunnel cop (Stan Shaw). There are several more, including a fire chief, played by Dan Hadeya (Clueless). Most of these characters (all but Stallone and Hadeya) end up in the tunnel at the same time, and that's when the disaster strikes. A group of young thugs who have stolen a car race down the tunnel pushing other cars into the walls and they finally hit a ramp and fly into a truck carrying a load of toxic (and explosive) waste.
From there on out, it is all white-knuckle action. The special effects in this movie have come a long way since The Poseidon Adventure (made in 1972) and does it show. The explosion down the tunnel is more impressive than the explosion down the tunnel in Independence Day (although ID4 overall was more impressive). The use of camera work is nice as it shows the fire envelope cars and almost pushes them out of the way like a stampede running at full speed. As if that isn't enough, both ends of the tunnel are sealed and because of a stupid move by one of the characters, the tunnel begins to fill up with water.
So it's up to Stallone, who is on the outside of the tunnel, to rescue the trapped survivors (and for some reason he keeps mentioning that he knows the tunnel like the back of his hand). But not all of the credit should go to Stallone. Director Rob Cohen keeps the pace up and moving quickly. In fact, the movie is never boring, even during scenes where only the characters are talking to each other. We get to know the characters even more and we start to care about them. Cohen (Dragonheart) knows how to play with his audience's emotions, and even though the basic plot of the movie is stolen, it still makes you sad when one of the characters dies (remember Shelley Winters in The Poseidon Adventure?)
In fact, I would say that the cast is probably the best part of the movie. Stallone breaks away from his Rocky-type character which he has played in his last three bombs (maybe it's a sign). He plays a believable heroic person this time around even though he still seems invincible (perhaps that's what I liked about Cliffhanger, that he seemed like he could have been killed). Amy Brenneman is very good as the struggling playwright and she provides a love interest and partner for Stallone. Viggo Mortensen was a little too outrageous for the rest of the group, and thankfully (without revealing too much of the plot), he's killed early on. Stan Shaw is probably the most interesting, and he has a very dramatic and depressing scene about three-fourths of the way through the movie. The rest of the characters are good too, but they were just pawns for Stallone to rescue, albeit very good pawns.
Daylight is rated PG-13, thankfully. I don't exactly remember, but I can't remember any vulgarity in this movie, but I know there has to be some that I missed. Maybe that's because the swearing usually comes from the bad guys and the only bad guy in this movie was Mother Nature. It's also rated PG-13 for depiction of peril and death, and violence. I usually hate critics who review Stallone movies because they are so harsh on him. I remember one review of Cliffhanger where they wondered why he took his shirt of in the freezing cold water (it's common knowledge that you should take off a sweater like that because it will absorb water and make you sink). In fact, the reviewers get plain mean. This really has nothing to do with the rest of this review, but it's my opinion, so deal with it. As for Daylight, get ready for some tense action, cool special effects, and really cool title sequence.
***1/2 out of ****
Reviews by Boyd Petrie