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Something unspeakably chilling is ultimately starting to heat up at The City of Los Angeles! Beneath the famed La Brea Tar Pits, a raging volcano has formed, raining a storm of deadly fire bombs and an endless tide of white-hot lava upon the stunned city! Written by
Anthony Pereyra <email@example.com>
A pretty simplistic disaster movie with all the usual clichés but just enough stuff happening to make it passable entertainment
Despite a history of major geological events in the area, nobody really suspects anything when a handful of pipe engineers die from intense burns while underground. Investigating the accident, OEM chief Mike Roark almost gets killed himself when an underground fissure throws up intense heat and flame. Expert Dr Amy Barnes believes that magma may be coming up to the surface of the earth and causing the events but, would you believe it, nobody buys it. Nobody that is, until the tar pits overflow and start to pour lava onto the streets, destroying everything in its path. With Roark convinced and Barnes wishing she had been wrong, the race is on to protect the city.
Better known as 'that other volcano movie of 1997', this film gets out the disaster movie handbook and follows it step by step. So we have a manly and practical hero, an expert, children and pets in peril, human conflict, sacrifice, special effects, 'bad' politicians etc etc. So far so formula, and so it all continues. The basic set up does the usual things by setting up the most basic of characters for us to use as a focus before then just letting the lava go and relying on special effects to do the rest. The need to turn the drama into a specific story around Roark means that it occasionally forces him and his into unlikely dangerous positions that require them to be inches away from the action; this is not convincing and at times just feels like overkill, sucking any real tension out of the film.
Without much real excitement the film just piles on the special effects and, unfortunately, these look dated with some poor back projection failing to really cut the mustard.
The film soldiers on, unsure of how it can keep raising the stakes while remaining plausible (it doesn't!) and it will satisfy those just looking for a noisy disaster movie but no more than the clichés that those produce. The script has a few digs at LA (the news reporting, the pet obsession etc) but these don't amount to much but it works much better than the rather sickening attempts at racial commenting in the final few scenes ('everyone looks the same' ugh!). The cast try hard to convince us that they are real people in real danger but even the talent involved cannot do much more than put on grim faces and soldier on. Jones is a good lead because he has a solid presence, but even he cannot make it exciting when he is placed within inches of anything falling/burning/exploding. Heche simply fits into the 'I hate it when I'm right' expert without really bringing more than competence to the role, while Hoffmann simply tries to find trouble to get into anytime the film dips. Cheadle is good support but minor subplots featuring the likes of David, Corbett and Rispoli only serve to highlight that the film cannot even manage to do the disaster movie stable of having each character have a background to make us care.
Overall this is an average disaster movie at best and, as such, will only really play well to those that like that sort of thing. The script is weak and cannot wait until the lava flows but even then struggles to make it exciting, throwing specific near misses at us again and again to keep us interesting. The cast have nothing to work with and make little impression but viewers may find this has just enough going for it to make it watchable if totally forgettable.
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