Extreme Limits

Extreme Limits (2001)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Cast: Treat Williams, John Beck, Julie St. Claire
Extras: Commentary Track, Photo Gallery, Trailer, Biographies

’Extreme Limits’ is the latest direct-to-video action flick by the undisputed master of that genre, director Jay Andrews (Jim Wynorski). I have a high tolerance for bad films and a great appreciation for well-executed camp but this one tried even my usually limitless patience.

Dr. Hunter (John Beck) and his lovely daughter Nadia (Julie St. Claire) are on an expedition in Siberia to uncover the long-lost Tesla Ray. Devised by famed scientist Nikola Tesla, the test of this mental weapon caused the great Tunguska explosion of 1908 and led Tesla to hide the weapon in a cave (actually the Bat Cave of 1960s television fame if you must know). Recovering the little shoeshine box that holds the death ray, the Hunters hop on board a charter flight full of lovely soap opera stars and head back to the States. Terrorists hitch a ride at the last minute, the plane crashes, Nadia goes for help, the others limp around and fight a bear, U.S. Military Agent Jason Ross (say what?) (Treat Williams) goes looking for the weapon, he and Nadia go for a train ride, and it all comes to a fiery conclusion on a bridge over the U.S.-Canada border.

The only redeeming feature of ’Extreme Limits’ is found in trying to name all of the films that contributed its stock footage. Flight and mountain sequences were pulled directly from ’Cliffhanger,’ the train footage and some helicopter gunplay come from ’Narrow Margin,’ and the final scene liberally borrows from ’The Long Kiss Goodnight.’ Original footage shot for the film is static, bland, and uninteresting so when you see something that looks intriguing start guessing as to what movie it’s from.

’Extreme Limits’ is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen although the director himself disparages this fact by stating that only those few viewers with widescreen sets will appreciate this format. Technical quality is decent enough with a fairly sharp image and good color saturation and black levels. Although some of the stock footage is of noticeably lesser quality, this is a solid transfer of a very low-budget production.

Audio is presented in English Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 Surround mixes. The soundtrack is clear enough but the sound effects have a very tacked-on feel and the use of the surrounds is overly obvious and distracting. There’s also a bit of LFE activity but this feels quite artificial as well. Dialogue is always intelligible in terms of clarity if not content.

Even the lowliest of titles from Fox seemingly deserve the special edition treatment and ’Extreme Limits’ is no exception. First up is a commentary featuring Jay Andrews, Julie St. Claire, and cinematographer Andrea Rossotto. The track is compelling in a car-crash sort of way and it’s alternately hilarious and frightening how slipshod this production was and how cavalier the involved talent is about their subpar work. Rounding out the extras are a short photo gallery and a full-frame trailer.

Movies of this type often offer up a bit of guilty fun but ’Extreme Limits’ is nothing more than a lame extended rip-off. I really can’t imagine who this film might appeal to and if the description sounds at all intriguing do yourself a favor and go straight to the original source of most of the exciting footage, ’Cliffhanger,’ as it’s a far better movie. This DVD is pure Blockbuster fodder designed to sit on the new release rack at the local video store and pull in unsuspecting viewers fooled by the generic title and description (note that the death ray is termed ’the world’s deadliest explosive’ on the jacket copy so as not to scare off those who usually steer away from sci-fi).

Audio and video quality are better than the film warrants and the inclusion of a few bonus features is certainly surprising. Fox deserves kudos for providing ’Extreme Limits’ with a nice DVD package but I have to shake my head when considering how many quality films languish waiting for funding while tripe like this is endlessly churned out by the direct-to-video assembly line.