Fatal Conflict (2000 movie) review…

Fatal Conflict (2000 movie) review after the break…

Fatal Conflict (2000 movie) review…

Where do you begin with a film like “Fatal Conflict”? Is there any acceptable starting point for critiquing a film like “Fatal Conflict” or are such films critic-proof?

The film industry is as diverse as there are snowflakes in a snow storm. Some films are funny but sad. Other films are serious but in a highly fictional setting. There are documentaries. There are mockumentaries. You can have bloodless horror movies and horror movies with nothing but gore in them. Science fiction that hews as closely to the “science” as possible and science fiction that’s far more “fiction” then “science.”

Not all films are created equal and not all films are created equal intentionally. So, is it really fair to critique a film like “Fatal Conflict” with the same critical eye that one would possess for, say, a Stanley Kubrick film?

“Fatal Conflict” is a 2000 movie starring Kari Wuhrer as a disgraced former space pilot (in the year 2029, naturally) who is forced to help the government re-capture a large space ship taken hostage by the nefarious Conrad Nash and his very affectionate sister, Carla. Conrad, having recently escaped the clutches of the government, has decided to return the favor of being incarcerated by flying the huge space ship into Los Angeles, USA, thereby creating as close to an atomic explosion as is possible without physically dropping a bomb. A gargantuan space ship crashing into the city, one figures, will perform the same type of devastation. The government, naturally, has decided to protect itself by launching missiles at the space ship. Can Kari retake the space ship and divert it safely before the missiles arrive and make her mission (and her life) moot?

“Fatal Conflict” is clearly a science-fiction re-telling of the movie “Die Hard” with some incidental changes thrown in. The fact that Fatal Conflict wants to emulate the movie Die Hard is not bad in and of itself. Unfortunately, the execution of such an attempt is what needs to be examined because once once it is, one finds many ways that the film could be improved.

In order to understand what Fatal Conflict needs in order to be a better film, one must look at why the movie Die Hard worked.

Let’s first look at our heroine, Sasha Burns (Kari Wuhrer). On the surface, nothing is amiss. I have no problem with female heroines and I have no problems with her back story as a disgraced ex-pilot. What doesn’t work, though, is her inclusion onto the ship. Quite honestly, is she really the best option that the government has? Really? It doesn’t make sense – Why her? There’s got to be hundreds… Thousands… Of perfectly capable female agents that could infiltrate that ship. It doesn’t make sense and if your film doesn’t make sense, people will not become emotionally attached to your film. Without emotional attachment, even a roller coaster “summer blockbuster” emotional attachment, all of the special effects and dialog fails.

John McClane, on the other hand, works for “Die Hard.” He’s just a regular cop who happens to be in an office building when it’s taken hostage by terrorists. He’s really not meant to be there – His marriage to his wife is barely solvent and has hit an even rougher patch just moments before the action begins. People can relate to his character – Just an average working stiff with all of the usual trials and tribulations of a marriage. John McClane also works because he’s an opposing figure to that movie’s villain, Hans.

It is said that a movie’s hero is only as good as a movie’s villain is evil. In “Fatal Conflict,” Conrad Nash (played by Leo Rossi) fails to be menacing in any significant way. Any way. He doesn’t look physically menacing. He doesn’t act socially or psychologically menacing. He doesn’t sound menacing. Miles O’Keeffe’s character (A very long ways away from Tarzan, aren’t we?), with the stubble and the frame, looks more menacing then Conrad Nash. Without a menacing villain, how can an audience expect to experience fear or dread? Hans had little regard for human life, maliciously killing two people and was planning on sacrificing a bunch of hostages as part of his plan to fool the authorities into believing he was dead. In Fatal Conflict, none of that even remotely happens; Conrad kills one person via gem suffocation(?). OK, he’s an ordinary criminal. If I remember correctly, he also makes a feeble attempt at killing a room full of gem polishers…

Quick point. While I appreciated the room full of slender, young, scantily dressed women as gem polishers, you may want to add some dialog as to why you have young, slender, scantily clad women as gem polishers. I got it, I understood only because I’ve seen something similar in the past and understand the logic behind it but others might see (and rightfully so) crass exploitation. In fact, given that the director / writer team of Lloyd Simandl & Chris Hyde are not foreign to the concept of female exhibitionism in their movies, I’m a little surprised that they didn’t go a bit farther in that scene. After all, what’s to prevent a women from stuffing a gem down their sports bra? Maybe add a scene where you have men or someone checking and catching a woman? Perhaps punishing the woman would’ve led cinematic credence to the Conrad Nash character or, to go even farther, have Conrad use slight-of-hand to plant a gem in a woman’s sports bra to have her punished as a lesson to the other women.

One of the great tools that “Die Hard” introduced was the revelation that the terrorists were mere robbers; They didn’t care about ideology, they just wanted the money inside the office building’s vault. Plain and simple. “Fatal Conflict” tries for something similar but completely misses the point. In “Fatal Conflict,” Conrad just wants to crash the space ship into Los Angeles which is fine but don’t tell the audience this fact moments into the film. Let the audience be fooled into thinking that Conrad is doing one thing while actually wanting to accomplish another. By keeping the audience guessing, you get them to become emotionally attached to your film and makes the rest of the film better. In Fatal Conflict, there’s no “False Plan A”; There’s just “Yeah, we’re crashing a space ship into your city. Beat.” Maybe it would’ve been better to have lost contact with the ship, has something bad happened to it? Has someone taken it over? There are plenty of possibilities for this and it would’ve increased the value of the movie tremendously.

One bright spot in this movie that wasn’t utilized as much as it could have been was the Jennifer Rubin character. Jennifer Rubin’s character, Carla, had the potential to be more menacing then her brother, Conrad. Carla is played as more mentally unhinged then Conrad and as more possessive. Imagine if the movie had been re-written where it’s Carla who is the true leader and not Conrad, that Carla is manipulating Conrad (sort of like a “Reindeer Games” situation) to perform these actions. That could have been a very interesting dynamic that this movie never explores at all.

Unfortunately, bright spots are few and far between in this movie and it would be too demanding to list everything that needs to be revised about this film. The CGI, unfortunately, is no better then a modern day video game (my apologies to all the great CGI artists out there working in the video game industry). Some of the set pieces where very un-space ship-like. The idea that, in the year 2029, we’d have such huge space ships at all was a bit laughable. The fact that our heroine uses a CD walkman (in the year 2029, no less) was more then a stretch in credibility. The rampant usage of scantily-clad women really distracted from the storyline (Can we ignore the entire lesbian prison guard scenes? Yes… Yes we can).

Let’s examine the “fight” between the African-American and Sasha for a moment. Clearly, they were going for a “Raiders of the Lost Ark” moment when Indiana Jones flippantly shoots the swordsman instead of fighting him. It worked for Raiders because that moment was set up by a long action sequence where Indiana Jones did fight two other swordsmen conventionally. The moment in Fatal Conflict didn’t work because there is no precedent; He’s the first guy that she kills when she arrives on the ship. That moment would have worked better if there had been an establishing scene where she shows her self-defense chops against someone and then, immediately afterwards, is confronted by the African-American.

Finally, let’s talk about Max. Or, rather, let’s not talk about Max. Max is what considered to be an “exposition character.” If your script has an exposition character in it, please consider re-writing your script. Yes, all movies need some form of exposition but exposition is like salt; A little is good but too much is very bad for you. There’s a lot of Max in this movie and Max enjoys explaining things whenever he’s on the screen in a very monotone voice, trying to hide his accent. People watch movies, not read them. Don’t turn your movie into an audio-book; Show the story, don’t recite it.

If you haven’t guessed by now, “Fatal Conflict” is a movie to avoid. The director / writer duo, based upon their body of work both before and after this movie suggests that the action film genre isn’t their specialty but more like the “soft-core” variety. “Fatal Conflict” may best be described as a “teachable moment” for aspiring scriptwriters and it serves as proof that critics, even in this day and age, still matter a little. Not every film has to be “Remains of the Day,” but it at least has to be a good movie.


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