(director: Allan Eastman; screenwriters: story by Danny Lerner/Jeff Albert; cinematographer: Yossi Wein; editor: Alain Jakubowicz; music: Danny Pelfrey; cast: Billy Zane (Rick Morgan), Ron Silver(Dupont), Robert Downey Jr. (Jim Scott), Lisa Collins (Dr. Kim Woods), Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Chang), Russel Savadier (Nando), Patrick Shai (Madumo); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Eli Samaha/Danny Lerner; Live Home Video/Nu Image films/Lionsgate; 1996)

“A superficial and uninteresting adventure film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A superficial and uninteresting adventure film. It’s fictionalized as the African nation Zambeze that is filmed in South Africa. The straight-to-video film is sluggishly helmed by Allan Eastman  (“Snapshot”/”Crazy Moon”) and filled with too many grating ecological messages to not tune them out. Writer Jeff Albert bases it on the Danny Lerner story.

The straight-shooter but alcoholic American, Captain Rick Morgan (Billy Zane), works as a mining engineer for the African government of Zambese. His shady mercenary friend Jim Scott (Robert Downey Jr.) pays him a surprise visit on his site carrying barrels of toxic waste and the site is immediately attacked by armed mercenaries led by a rogue agent named Chang (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa). Scott’s illegal operation implicates the innocent Rick and he is blamed for the deadly toxic spill caused by the shoot-out. Scott is supposedly killed by Chang and Rick is forced to leave the country. Back in the States after a year,  having guilt-feelings over accused of being responsible for many villagers dying from the bad water, Rick is enticed to return to Zambese to clear his name and get back his due pay by the country’s shifty adviser to the minister, Dupont (Ron Silver).

In Zambese, Rick learns that Scott is still alive and living with the rebels in the jungle, who are engaged in a civil war. Rick is ordered by Dupont to take along a nuclear waste researcher, Dr. Kim Scott (Lisa Collins), from the World Health Organization, to prevent other ecological disasters. The duo catch up with Scott in the rebel’s mine in the jungle, but are attacked by Chang and his mercenaries. Though Scott is killed he gives his old pal a heads up to where the stolen  plutonium barrels are stored.

The adventure story picks up steam when back in the hotel Dupont reveals his greedy plans to Kim, but is executed by Chang and his raiding party. When the duo flee Chang and reach the mine site of the hidden barrels, Chang shows up, after following them with a tracking device. Chang tries but fails to blow up Rick in the mine, and leaves with Kim as his captive. With help from the rebels, Rick tracks down on horseback Chang on a train and he frees Kim from Chang’s captivity, as they duke it out on the runaway train before it explodes. Meanwhile Rick contacted the CIA, who recover the barrels of plutonium in the secret mine.¬† The ending is a truly Hollywood happy one, that has Rick and Kim kiss. Who would have guessed, since they initially disliked each other with such a ferocity?

REVIEWED ON 5/7/2017       GRADE: C