cast: Jason Connery, Nicole Eggert, Lee Majors, and Daniel Goddard
director: Don E. FauntLeRoy
90 minutes (12) 2006
widescreen ratio 16:9
Bridge / Nu Image DVD Region 2 retail
reviewed by Christopher Geary
Much of the critical disdain, from mainstream reviewers and genre fans alike, that’s aimed at comic-book films is grossly misjudged. Traditional fantasy, such as Peter Jackson’s acclaimed Tolkien trilogy, is widely praised for breathtaking heroic adventuring or complexity of themes, but comic-book action pictures are frequently maligned by so-called discerning viewers of all kinds. What’s being overlooked here is that comic-book style movies or TV shows with their superheroes and arch-villains are obviously the modernist equivalent of all those fairy tales about mythical warriors and fabled creatures, knights and dragons, evil wizards and supernatural conflicts. As such, superhero movies have certain inspirational qualities that are fundamental to the material; quite irrespective of whether their particular subjects are presented in a wholly thoughtful or humorous manner, and so they are deserving of serious consideration, just as much as Lord Of The Rings.
Produced by Stan Lee’s own Pow Entertainment company, Lightspeed is a deeply flawed and overly simplistic but nonetheless hugely enjoyable TV movie, directed by Don E. FauntLeRoy (maker of Steven Seagal flick Mercenary For Justice). Before some inevitable flashbacks to account for the villain’s origin, the story begins with a fight sequence involving a secret police assault squad and a snake-skinned super-foe, the Python. The backstory explains how research scientist Edward (Daniel Goddard) is enraged when his experiments in flesh-regeneration (likely to become a treatment for burn victims, such as the scientist’s comatose wife) lose their essential funding, and his lab is forcibly closed. Accidentally burning down his own facility, the bereaved Edward only survives thanks to a desperate use of his faulty transfusion chamber – which results in his tragic mutation into a reptilian form, in regular need of medical aid. Edward’s best friend Daniel (Jason Connery, Brotherhood Of Blood, Robin Of Sherwood, Urban Ghost Story) recovers from almost fatal injuries received during the collapse of a building in the opening scenes and, when Edward, now in his guise as evil terrorist Python, sabotages Daniel’s radiation therapy, the crippled soldier is – of course – changed into a superhero (not unlike DC icon, ‘the Flash’), able to run so fast that he becomes invisible.
The main cast is rounded out by Lee Majors (once a bionic hero in The Six Million Dollar Man), as tactical ‘ghost squad’ leader, Tanner; and Nicole Eggert (cybernetic heroine of The Demolitionist), as combat agent Beth, also the hero’s girlfriend. The plotting is perfunctory, cursed with hackneyed dialogue (“Don’t you know, speed kills?”), but everything zips along with plenty of cheerfully dodgy special effects, and lots of quite gruesome violence (shootings, knifings, blood splatter) – which makes the ’12’ certificate on this Dutch edition DVD a bit puzzling.
In spite of its borrowed elements – from the likes of Sam Raimi’s classic Darkman, particularly noticeable in the wicked Python’s frenzied bloodlust and incoherent psychotic ranting – Lightspeed is great fun as no-brain-required entertainment. It’s plugged into several of today’s real-world concerns (banned scientific research, war on terror, weapons of mass destruction, global warming fears), and its appealingly-rapid pacing and varied storytelling shortcuts grant it sufficiently amusing merits to overcome the blatantly derivative formula (rescue captive girl – check; defeat the baddies – okay; save America from catastrophe – job done!) of superhero action. Cheapo action thrillers like this, whether based on a published comic-book or not, should be viewed with the same forgiving attitude afforded cheesy 1970s’ kung fu movies. Adopting this tolerant mindset will immediately benefit your viewing experience!