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Car stunts gone wild in `Redline'

Luxury sports models and a leering camera aren't enough to keep the effort on track.

April 16, 2007|John Anderson | Special to The Times

Eye candy for motor heads -- or 14-year-old boys, or 14-year-old motor heads -- "Redline" features hot cars, customized women, martial arts, kidnapping, female empowerment, Iraqi war vets and the always-entertaining image of million-dollar autos being driven under 36-ton trucks. It is, as they would say at the dealership, loaded.

Not such a deal, though. Directed by erstwhile Hong Kong stunt coordinator Andy Cheng, "Redline" isn't exactly a car wreck, mainly because it's far less exciting, and you can, in fact, look away. Perhaps at your shoes.

To appeal to the attention-disordered, it is more a collection of car parts and silicon, pieced together via slo-mo, dated editing techniques and a contempt for physics that would inspire Isaac Newton to learn to drive a Hundai, just so he could head in the other direction.

Much of the effort in this Chicago Pictures production has been expended on the movie's sports cars, which include amped-up Porches, Ford GTs, a Saleen SL, a Lamborghini and a Mercedes SLR McLaren. Few remain intact. Likewise, the people.

First to go is Jason (Jesse Johnson), who has been engaged by his uncle Michael (Angus MacFadyen) -- a barefoot, linen-wearing Orson Welles impersonator -- to drive his Mercedes against the Lamborghini of Infamous, a shady music producer played by Eddie Griffin (who wrecked a rare Ferrari Enzo just a few weeks ago, either in a charity race or publicity stunt).

Infamous has tricked Natalie (Nadia Bjorlin), a car-mechanic-cum-pop singer -- whose beloved father expired in a race some years before -- into driving for him. Tragedy ensues. Also fistfights, started or ended by Jason's Iraq vet brother Carlo (Nathan Phillips), a hothead wearing Schwarzenegger gear from "Commando" who has decided to avenge his brother's death by taking out crazy Michael.

You can tell "Redline" is a serious movie -- serious in its attention to certain details, anyway -- because the leering camera never leaves the posterior of any of the innumerable good-looking women who wander into the frame. Also, because the acting is so convincing (Tim Matheson appears as a film producer who fulfills every stereotype known to Hollywood).

And because Carlo and Nat, as she is known, get to walk toward us in silhouette as flames explode from the wreckage behind them, in corona'd tribute to the action-movie cliche.

There is little doubt that moviegoers among certain demographic groups will be enticed, either by the ornamental female population of "Redline" or by its overly agitated fleet of automobiles. At the same time, it's a film that makes a pretty good argument for mass transit.

"Redline." Rated PG-13 for violence, illegal and reckless behavior, sexual content, language and drug references. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes. In general release.

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