About halfway into “Extreme Ops,” an extremely silly action movie set in the Tyrolean Alps, ice princess Bridgette Wilson-Sampras, playing a downhill skier fretting over her poor performance on the slopes (not simply as an actress, though she might well bemoan that, too), delivers an extended monologue that’s one of the few reasons to see the movie. She’s absolutely terrible, as usual, and the earnestness with which she tries to deliver the awful lines put in her character’s mouth by screenwriter Michael Zaidan constitutes one of the most egregious examples of unintentional humor you’ll find in a Hollywood product this year.
Otherwise, the only things the picture has to offer are some nice locations and decent cinematography. The sequences of snowboarders and skiers flying down the slopes are nicely photographed, if awfully repetitive. But the plot is so infantile and the characters so uniformly obnoxious that it’s impossible to care about what’s going to happen next. The premise is that a filmmaking crew, headed by a risk-taking cameraman (Devon Sawa), takes up residence in a remote, half-finished resort high in the Austrian mountains, where they intend shooting a commercial showing a quartet of daredevils (Wilson-Sampras, Refus Sewell, Joe Absolom and Jana Pallaske) actually outrunning an avalanche. Unfortunately, the place also houses a Serbian war criminal (Klaus Lowitsch), who’s faked his own death and is apparently plotting to blow up the international tribunal in the Hague. When the crew accidentally catches him on film, he and his repulsive henchmen determine to wipe them out. What follows is a half-hour of chases, as the Americans are pursued by the bad guys who try to shoot them from a helicopter. Much of the action looks very much like bits of “Vertical Limit” intercut with outtakes from “Cliffhanger,” though all the extreme sports stuff will remind you of “XXX,” too (though the avalanche effect in that movie was far superior).
There’s nothing essentially wrong with this kind of implausible, vacuous action fluff, but it really needs human beings who are more interesting than the landscape, and that’s distinctly missing here. Wilson-Sampras’ Chloe is a statuesque joke, and it goes without saying she’s poorly played; Sewell’s super-confident Ian is a strutting bore, and the actor gives him far too much gravity and seriousness. Rupert Graves, in the other hand, is all broad smarminess as the cowardly producer in league with Ian, and Sawa, who’s beginning to look like an unshaven bum rather than a teen heartthrob, overplays the spurned bad-boy bit. Absolom and Pallaske never manage to become even vaguely likable, and Lowitsch, who’s not supposed to, comes across as a cut-rate version of Erich von Stroheim. In any event it’s the stuntpeople who should probably get top billing, since in all likelihood they actually have more screen time than the actors they stand in for. Director Christian Duguay tries all sorts of camera tricks in an effort to inject excitement into the proceedings, but he largely fails; certainly the bad process shots of our heroes speeding in front of the climactic avalanche in the last reel don’t make much of an impression. Special demerits to Normand Corbeil and Stanislas Syrewicz, whose overloud, pulsating score flails away in a desperate but unsuccessful attempt to jazz up the proceedings.
“The whole thing has turned into such a disaster,” one of the crew members complains at one point in “Extreme Ops,” voicing a sentiment with which most viewers will undoubtedly agree. Elsewhere, in one of the more idiotic bits of dialogue, Pallaske’s Kittie instructs Chloe to listen to what the mountain tells her in order to ski well. If you concentrate, you might just hear that mountain sagely warning you to skip this wipeout of a movie.