Friday December 6, 1996
Kit Latura, able to absorb enough blows to disable a tank, takes a licking and keeps on ticking as the hero of "Daylight." What hurts him the most, however, are the verbal jabs from the very people he's trying to help, a bunch of sniveling whiners who are not worthy of the man's guts and expertise. What's a guy to do?
As played by the unlikely but always game Sylvester Stallone, Kit is the hero as sensitive soul, someone whose skills as a motivational speaker and/or grief counselor are as important as his physical abilities. Gentle and pleading where protagonists past would be barking out orders, Kit prefers saying things like "Don't quit on me" and "Together we can do anything" to taking charge. If it sounds screwy, it is.
Yet another silly disaster movie, where the special effects are believable and the characters aren't, "Daylight" takes us to an underwater tunnel connecting New York and New Jersey. Nightmarish enough during a normal rush hour, the tunnel turns especially grim when a carload of hopped-up jewel thieves collides with a truck smuggling contraband toxic material into the Garden State.
Before that happens, we get to meet a lot of people who're going to wish they'd taken the bridge. Like the frustrated playwright (Amy Brenneman) who can't stomach Manhattan's rats and roaches. And the egotistical "it's exhausting being me" sportswear entrepreneur (an engaging Viggo Mortensen). Or the kindly tunnel guard (Stan Shaw) and a husband and wife (Claire Bloom, of all people) who take their dog to a psychiatrist.
There's more, including a vanload of soon-to-be-escaped prisoners (Stallone's son Sage is one), but what is lacking in Leslie Bohem's programmatic script is even a single character who isn't formula all the way. Those people all died, no doubt, in the explosion that follows that mid-tunnel collision.
As orchestrated by director Rob Cohen and Oscar-winning special-effects supervisor Kit West, that blast is impressive. A fierce wall of flame engulfs the tunnel, sizable pieces of concrete crumble, walls collapse, and even Stallone's Latura looks impressed when the whole thing falls apart right in front of him.
Though he's currently working as New York's only cheerful cabdriver, Latura turns out to have a past as head of the city's Emergency Medical Services team. Soon enough he is detouring cars, tying someone's injured leg off with his tie and in general saving lives left and right.
It's a good thing Kit knows at once what's going on in the disabled tunnel, because no one else in this hectic movie has the inclination to explain anything to anybody, especially not the audience. There are a lot of shouts and murmurs about something called "the Mid-River Tower," but for all we know this might be a piece of real estate recently acquired by Donald Trump.
Despite lacking a plan of action, Kit soon finds a way into the disabled tunnel (through, in one of "Daylight's" better sequences, a monstrous series of air vents). Though he finds ways to cope with all manner of disasters, our guy gets no respect from the victims, who prefer to obsess about the murky reasons he lost his old job. Maybe driving a cab wasn't such a bad gig after all.
Shot extensively in Rome's Cinecitta studio, which had enough space to hold a life-size tunnel, "Daylight" is persuasive in its action moments but puny in terms of character and dialogue. Anyone who expected anything else is probably in the wrong theater.
Daylight, 1996. PG-13, for disaster-related peril, death and destruction. A Davis Entertainment/Joseph M. Singer production, released by Universal Pictures. Director Rob Cohen. Producers John Davis, Joseph M. Singer, David T. Friendly. Executive producer Raffaella De Laurentiis. Screenplay Leslie Bohem. Cinematographer David Eggby. Editor Peter Amundson. Costumes Thomas Casterline, Isis Mussenden. Music Randy Edelman. Production design Benjamin Fernandez. Supervising art director Pierluigi Basile. Set decorator Alberto Tosto. Running time: 1 hour, 49 minutes. Sylvester Stallone as Kit Latura. Amy Brenneman as Madelyne Thompson. Viggo Mortensen as Roy Nord. Dan Hedaya as Frank Kraft. Jay O. Sanders as Steven Crighton. Karen Young as Sarah Crighton. Claire Bloom as Eleanor Trilling. Vanessa Bell Calloway as Grace. Stan Shaw as George Tyrell.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times