There's No Light At The End Of The Tunnel In 'Daylight.'
By Stacey Richter
POOR SYLVESTER STALLONE. No matter how hard he tries, he always ends up back where he started, an underdog fighting his way to the top. What a grim, Sisyphusian fate, to be doomed to enact the same drama, over and over, until he's a little old man battling against the forces of, well, whatever, to pull himself up by his bootstraps to the tune of "Gonna Fly Now." I wouldn't want to be Sylvester Stallone.
The worst part is that Stallone isn't really Stallone anymore. He's some sort of parody of himself--an actor imitating his own performance rather than inventing a new one. The really depressing part is that this should be funny, at least, but it's not funny. It's just sort of blah.
I have a theory about good and bad movies. I don't believe movie quality can be measured on a linear continuum with good on one end and bad on the other. Rather, I think the measure should be circular, like the face of a clock. As we move clockwise around the scale, we go from the world of very good movies to the realm of The Okay; at six o'clock we hit rock-bottom where we find the very worst movies of all time. (Supply your own example here--though I'd like to nominate Spy Hard.) But then, an interesting thing happens: As we move back towards the top of the scale, the bad movies begin to get interesting again. They become entrancingly horrible. For example, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, the dopey, earnest tale of the rise and fall of a sixties rock band by low-budget maestro Russ Meyers, falls at about 11:45 on the good/bad clock. It's a terrible movie, and it's just great.
Daylight, the latest Sylvester Stallone vehicle, falls at about 8:40. It's bad enough to be really stupid and annoying, but it can't make it up the hill to the happier land of campy failures. It doesn't quite rise to the level of The Poseidon Adventure, a movie Daylight resembles, which, considering the performance of Shelley Winters, falls at about 9:45--well on the way to the so-bad-it's-good-zone.
Like The Poseidon Adventure, Daylight is a disaster movie. It traces the fate of a motley bunch of luckless motorists and a dog who spend an evening stepping over the charred remains of even more luckless motorists in the dank, muddy Holland Tunnel, which has collapsed due to the unsporting behavior of some out-of-style punk rock kids. But wait! The motorists are led to safety by Kit (Stallone), former chief of the Emergency Medical Services division of New York City, who has been de-throned from this glorious post due to some incident he relates tearfully, which I cannot for the life of me remember. Poor Stallone!
Daylight deserves mention for the especially complex and ridiculous situations it presents in the service of setting up a series of events which try to pass themselves off as a plot. One conversation between Kit and some official New York City tunnel regulator stands out in particular. It concerns a series of exhaust fans which Kit will attempt to shimmy through on his odyssey of rescue, and it takes the regulator a good five minutes to describe the arcane rules which govern the fans' wildly improbable switching devices.
Meanwhile, all available characters have been called upon to repeat bits of exposition over and over. The fire in the tunnel is toxic, we are told, again and again. Down below, the survivors emerge from their cars, cough once or twice, then forget all about it. At about this point, it seemed it was the audience who needed to be rescued, not the luckless motorists. Kit continues on his wild, suicidal rescue mission. (For a while I thought everyone was calling him "Kid"--simply the wrong nickname for the aging star--because that was the level of ineptness under which the film was operating.)
In true disaster flick fashion, each survivor has a distinct little personality that helps or hurts them on their quest for, well, daylight. People die, people live, but it's all so totally familiar and flat that it's hard to really pay attention to who drowns, who gets eaten by rats and who gets spurted out of the bottom of the river in a blue green geyser that miraculously deposits the prettiest girl on high ground with spanking dry hair. Daylight is not only a disaster movie, it's a disaster of a movie.
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