Downdraft (1996, directed by Michael Mazo)


When an out-of-control general was on the verge of destroying the world, Col. Jack Slater (Vincent Spano) did what he had to do and he killed him.  Now, Slater is in a military prison and separated from his family.  However, he’s offered an opportunity to win his freedom.  All he has to do is reassemble his old crew of military/scientist specialists and deactivate an underground computer.  The problem is that a mad scientist named LaGrange (Zdenek Maryska) is threatening to use the computer to destroy the world and the underground chambers are patrolled by a killer cyborg that has melded with LaGrange’s mind.  Meanwhile, above ground, General Devlin (Paul Koslo) is willing to sacrifice Jack and his team if it means covering up what’s happening underground.  If the cyborg doesn’t kill them, the super computer will.  If the super computer can’t get the job done, the government cover-up will do what has to be done.  If the government can’t do it, the earthquake will have to suffice.  Either way, it seems unlikely that Jack and his people are going to escape that underground chamber with their lives.

“Game over, man!”

No one shouted that in Downdraft but they could have because the scenes of the team searching the underground chamber will be familiar to anyone who remembers the space marines exploring the destroyed colony in Aliens.

“I’ll be back.”

No one says that in Downdraft but someone could have because the computer turning on the humans that created it will be familiar to anyone who remembers what John Connor told Sarah in The Terminator.

“Thank you and have a nice day.”

Again, no one says it in Downdraft but they could have because the killer cyborg might as well be named Robocop.

Downdraft takes elements from all of those films and then adds in the type of corrupt general who would send John Rambo to Vietnam and then abandon him there once it became obvious that Rambo had found evidence of American POWs.  There’s not much about Downdraft that feels original but I will give Downdraft credit for including a little bit of everything.  Not only is there a killer robot and a super computer and an untrustworthy general and a government coverup and a team of quirky nerds who know how to fight but there’s also a race against time to defuse a hydrogen bomb and several scenes of people having to climb rickety ladders and cross over chasms on unstable bridges.  The action is impossible to follow but when there’s so much of it, it almost doesn’t matter.  The main message of the movie is that humanity shouldn’t become reliant on supercomputers to run the world.  It’s a good thing we all learned that lesson, right?

Vincent Spano was a good actor, even in this.  Whatever happened to him?  While he’s saving the world, he also finds time to fall in love with a Russian scientist played by Kate Vernon, who went from playing a key supporting role in Malcom X to starring in this.  Everyone has bills to pay.  That was as true in 1996 as it is today.

One response to “Downdraft (1996, directed by Michael Mazo)

  1. Pingback: Lisa Marie’s Week In Review: 9/26/22 — 10/2/22 | Through the Shattered Lens

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