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Chill Factor


‘…as an accidental comedy, Chill Factor has plenty to offer slumming cineastes, with weak, colourless leads, a slavering, snarling villain, and some ludicrous but entertaining action scenes…’

We haven’t had a so-bad-its good movie for a while, but in case anyone thinks we’re losing our sense of the ridiculous, Chill Factor arrives to remind us just how deeply silly making or indeed watching a movie can be. The iconic success of Die Hard led to dozens of situational action movies, with entries ranging from football stadiums (Final Score), hockey matches (Sudden Death) or a bus (Speed). The latter was a huge hit, and inspired a specific sub-genre in which the Die Hard scenario is played out on moving vehicles, from Speed 2 to Under Siege 2. And that’s how we get to 1999’s Chill Factor, in which the explosive contents of an ice-cream truck dictate that if the temperature of the bomb, named Elvis here, rise above a certain level, then it’s goodbye to most of Montana. Tony Scott’s regular cinematographer Hugh Johnson (White Squall, GI Jane) is on directing duties here, and at least he makes it look like a proper movie. Sure, you’ve not seen or even heard of Chill Factor, but there’s a good reason for that…

‘ I am become death, destroyer of worlds,’ is a line that Christopher Nolan used for Oppenheimer, but who knew that he lifted it verbatim from Chill Factor and Dr Richard Long (David Paymer)? He’s a scientist who has created a highly volatile blue substance for some kind of military experiment. When a group of soldiers are killed way back in 1987, Dick Long decides to bury the evidence and concentrate on fly-fishing with his buddy Tim Mason (Skeet Ulrich from Scream). A decade later, disgraced Colonel Andrew Brynner (Peter Firth) wants to get his mitts on the substance and has Long killed, but not before Long can hand a satchel containing the crystals to Mason, who works in a local greasy-spoon café. Mason has to try and get the crystals to a nearby military base at Fort Macgruder, chilled, and enlists the help of cheeky-chap ice-cream delivery man Arlo (Cuba Gooding Jr) to help with transportation issues. Exploding motorcycles, helicopters, SUV’s, and all the usual 90’s obstacles stand between them and the delivery of their cold comfort…

Brynner is trying to spark an illegal auction for the precious McGuffin, and muses; ‘We will open the bidding at …one hundred million dollars!?’ Presumably that kind of paltry sum was considered to be a lot of money back in 1999, but there’s no point in trying to keep track of the idiocy here. ‘You think like a fish!’ is another eyebrow raising line, but Chill Factor is rammed full of them. Calling the bomb Elvis allows for some predicable one-lines, from the expected ‘Elvis has left the building’ to the quotable 1999 riposte; ‘Elvis is dead, why don’t you buy yourself some CD’s?” Since it’s fairly impossible to maintain tension about an ice-cream truck’s refrigeration capacity, our buddy civilian heroes also employ parcel trucks, a boat, a river and various other methods to keep cool, but this expensive flop for the Morgan Creek label never begins to generate the intense heat required.

That said, as an accidental comedy, Chill Factor has plenty to offer slumming cineastes, with weak, colourless leads, a slavering, snarling villain, and some ludicrous but entertaining action scenes; how two average Joes with an ice-cream van can outsmart legions of trained mercenaries on a cross-country carnage-fest is the premise, and Chill Factor delivers if you like you action on the silly side. At the time of writing, Chill Factor was rocking a humble 9/100 rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but we’re fixing that right now; sometimes you just have to switch your brain off and let art wash over you, and if you’re in the mood to be indulged, Chill Factor is one of the most ridiculous entries in an action genre already stuffed with inanity.





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    • Terrific rubbish is about right. Walls Neapolitan rather than Haagen Daas, but when you’re hungry, anything will do.

  1. That’s funny, this doesn’t seem to be a review of a movie about a backwoods demon of vengeance with an oversize melon.

    Oh well, back to Until the End of the World. The 287-minute director’s cut. I’ve heard rumours that there are so called Internetz film critics who try to cheat by watching the theatrical release version. I call them slackers. You need to be made of stronger stuff if you want to make it in this biz. I should be giving lectures on things like this at Glazgo U.

    • Apparently the 287 minute version is online, and since it was NOT previously available to me, I might well fork out to see it.

      Pumpkinhead is coming, sometimes you have to let a great film mature in my mind before casting a critical eye over it in prose.

      • The director’s cut is also a Criterion release so maybe you can get it at your library. Where I got it! But then the Strathclyde library system might have a few gaps in its collection . . .

        I assume you’re also digging into the entire Pumpkinhead franchise just to do it full justice, so I can wait.

        • No, one Pumpkinhead will be plenty.

          Yet to see any Pumpkinhead coverage from your end?

          UTEOTW is apparently purchasable on Prime. In the longer cut. Just try and stop me!

  2. Oh man, this sounds really bad indeed.

    I liked Ulrich in “Miracles” but never saw him in anything else. I wonder what trajectory his career took after a turkey like this one…

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