True story: shortly after settling down to watch a certain made-for-basic-cable cheesefest, I realized that I had completely forgotten the title of the very movie I was watching, a title that just popped up on the screen, what three, four minutes ago? The subtitle had to be "Volcano in New York." That was the easy part - it was a movie about a volcano, which I was looking forward to seeing, and look, they're in New York. Done. But what about the rest? "Disaster Area?" Nah, that's not right. Had "Zone" in it, I think. "Danger Zone?" Could be. No, wait, that was a Kenny Loggins tune. The further on the edge, the hotter the intensity… Hiiiighwaaaaaay toooooo the Danger Zone…
Look, if I can't even get the title right just a few minutes after reading the darn thing, chances are pretty lousy the rest of the movie's going to be any more memorable. Besides, I'm too busy humming that Loggins song to be bothered with pesky disaster movies. Disaster! That's it! "Disaster Zone: Volcano in New York!" Yeah, I suppose I could've just picked up the DVD cover and taken a good look at it, but then I wouldn't have selections from the "Top Gun" soundtrack running through my head.
Anyway. The film starts promisingly (if anonymously) enough, with a group of tunnel-digging "Sandhogs" taking a couple of newbies on their first mining job, building a new aqueduct under New York City. The whole thing has a war movie feel - the generic tough guys, the banter, the easy-going nature of the whole thing. Then a couple guys get burned but good by steam blowing out of a cooling pipe, which is always a good start. (You know a scene like this exists only to set up the moment later when the renegade scientist tells the mayor that steam shouldn't be coming out of cooling pipes, and we got us a volcano! I'm a sucker for scenes like that.)
But then Michael Ironside (Jeff Fahey was unavailable) shows up as a mad scientist who's trying to drill seven miles down in some crazy effort to discover a new energy source from the planet's core. He does his loco shtick just long enough for us to waste time until we get back to our heroes, ace digger Costas Mandylor (Michael Paré was unavailable) and his geologist ex-wife Alexandra Paul (Erika Eleniak was unavailable), who, fed up with stubborn government agents who think it's all just terrorism, investigate on their own, only to stumble upon the villain's master plan. Then it's up to Mandylor (Dean Cain was unavailable) to regroup with his team - a team that we'd get to see from time to time just to remind us the movie was still supposed to be about them, even though they had nothing to do but (literally) sit around and wait for the climax - and, with a plan sorta lifted from "Volcano" (you know, that "The Coast Is Toast" movie), save the day. Along the way, some stuff blows up, and people fall into lava.
In other words, it's a perfectly good example of a movie getting progressively worse as it steamrolls forward. The early stuff, despite being little more than generic disaster movie character filler, is actually somewhat interesting, thanks to a supporting cast that's having fun with the corny material. But then the CGI lava starts to pour, and before too long, we're watching a movie where a half-his-face-burned-off Michael Ironside is sulking through the city streets like he's the Phantom of the Opera, which is ten kinds of ridiculous.
Sure, we expect our disaster movies to be cheesy and corny and none too bright. But "Disaster Zone" slowly sucks all the fun out of the idea of a volcano brewing under the Big Apple. There's no tension to any of the action sequences, no sense that we should be caring who dies next. There's enough silliness here (thanks to some overacting, a handful of monumentally stupid plot turns, an overuse of volcano stock footage, and plenty of inept special effects) to make this a movie worth laughing at, not with, but that doesn't make the film any less of a disappointment.
The anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) presentation is a bit on the soft side, worse so when the editors laughably try to sneak in some grainy stock footage that doesn't match at all.
The stereo mix does fine by the varying levels of dialogue and bass-heavy effects. No subtitles are offered.
None. Trailers for several Echo Bridge/Marvista releases automatically play when the disc first loads; you are able to skip past them.
At the end of my review, I've already forgotten large chunks of the movie. You won't remember much, either. Unless you're planning on hosting a Bad Movie party, Skip It.