By default, American DTV action titles are not meant to compete with blockbuster material. They're generally cheap, occasionally creative alternatives to bigger movies. In the case of DTV movies starring former Hollywood action heroes, it's less of a gamble: these films generally don't bother trying to do anything new or innovative as much as they attempt to perpetuate the star's former image as he gets older and wrinklier. In the case of Wesley Snipes, this part of his career arguably came way before its time and can likely be attributed to his getting caught by the shovel that collectively heaped men like Seagal, Lundgren, and Van Damme out of mainstream status. Snipes, however, has done a relatively decent job of fighting the odds and, along with director Po-Chih Leong, proved here that he still has what it takes to be in big-name pictures.
The story: Homeland Security agent Sonni Griffith (Snipes) must go behind the backs of his employers in Romania to keep the world safe from nuclear threat by protecting a woman (Silvia Colloca, Van Helsing) withholding information from a dangerous arms dealer looking to sell deadly new weapons abroad (Tim Dutton, Tom & Viv).
Director Po-Chih Leong's previous film excursion was the unaccountably weird Steven Seagal vehicle Out of Reach, but survivors of that needn't worry about the production values of this one: Leong delivers a very sleek, professional-looking thriller that avoids the visual bleakness of most DTV fare shot in Eastern Europe. It's all very nice to look at, and most things of a performance nature attempted by the film work out passably. However, the unraveling of the plotline is another matter: even though it's pretty much a retread of Snipes' own The Art of War and avoids the convolutedness of other low-budget yarns, I felt the story playing past me and at no point did it really grab me. There's a cool little twist at the end concerning the allegiance of a character played by William Hope (Aliens), but up until then, the tale fails to effectively involve a viewer.
The action content is mostly about shootouts and car chases, both of which are done decently but at the expense of Snipes' hand-to-hand work. Wesley has two very quick brawls, three gunfights, and a single chase scene, and the latter two obviously take precedence over the karate as action centerpieces. A gunfight during a hideout invasion is pretty good and the crash-abundant car chase is damn near theater-level, but overall, the movie's more about suspense and intrigue than it is about the physical talents of its leading man. Tim Dutton's first scene features him brutally impaling a mobster who's trying to intimidate him, but he fails to stay as cool or physical throughout the rest of the picture.
Some authentic Romanian is spoken throughout the film - which is always cooler than listening to bad accents - and the incorporation of the 2006 World Cup as a background setting works surprisingly well, giving the film a bit of extra appeal. In the end, though, it fails to stand out among the masses of other DTV features and certainly isn't a superior Snipes movie. With a bit more action, this one could've raised my eyebrow and earned the four-star rating that a low-budget film with sound production values like these deserves, but in light of its absence, the movie ends up feeling a bit toothless. Devotees of Wesley's action-based outings ought to check it out for the sake of completeness while everybody else should find something better.