Directed by John Badham (of Saturday Night Fever fame), 1994's Drop Zone finds Wesley Snipes playing a U.S. Marshall named Pete Nessip (a role originally intended for none other than the mighty Steven Segal). He's been assigned with escorting an important prisoner named Earl Leedy (Michael Jeter) to a new state of the art prison where he'll be locked away. Because of what Leedy knows - he's got the inside dirt on a group of drug smugglers - it's imperative that the Feds keep him safe as a few of his former comrades would love to see him dead before he lets the government know what he knows. The flight that Nessip and Leedy are on, however, gets taken over by terrorists and Leedy gets killed in the process. Or so it seems.
Despite the fact that his superiors are none too happy about what's happened, Nessip decides to play by his own rules and to take it upon himself to try and figure out just who was responsible for the hijacking and why. His investigation takes him deep into the heart of the world of skydiving with some help from a sexy skydiving young lady named Jess Crossman (Yancy Butler) who begrudgingly teaches him the tricks of the trade. Eventually, Nessip figures out that a scheming ex-fed named Ty Moncrief (Gary Busey) has been behind all of this and that he wants Leedy for his own nefarious purposes. Nessip and Crossman decide to put their differences aside and work together to save the day.
While Drop Zone may not show much concern for realism, it's a fun and fast paced action movie that gives Snipes a chance to play the tough guy and do it well. His chemistry with Butler's character won't set the world on fire but they make for an interesting team, while Busey chews through the scenery and seems to be having a blast playing his Moncrief by going as over the top as possible. The storyline is pretty preposterous - there are copious scenes involving parachutes and skydiving simply because that was the film's gimmick, they really don't further the plot in any sort of logical manner - but it all builds nicely to a pretty awesome conclusion that takes place over the skies of Washington D.C..
While no one can really argue that director John Badham will always be best known for Saturday Night Fever he's got a few decent action films on his resume like Blue Thunder and Point Of No Return and he proves quite capable here. The high flying stunts are impressive even if aspects of the production are starting to show their age in terms of the special effects and in terms of how TSA and government security operates in this day and age. Obviously things were a lot different in this regard in 1994, and what may have seemed plausible then seems ludicrous now. Guys in planes are flying over D.C. like it's no big deal and no one seems particularly concerned by any of it. This just goes to show how much things have changed in the last decade and a half in regards to air travel and the government regulations thereof.
Dated or not, however, Drop Zone is still fun. Snipes makes for a likeable enough hero and he plays the tough guy well. He's not as incredibly confident and super cool as he was in the Blade films that would follow but he's convincing enough with the martial arts moves and in his line delivery to make for a pretty solid leading man. Butler is all saucy-sexy attitude and while her character may not be the most believable, she's entertaining enough. Busey steals the show as maniacal man behind it all and he does his thing well while a supporting performance from Jeter as the catalyst for the action is, if not remarkable, certainly passable. The whole thing might be more than just a little bit farfetched but if you like your action movies big, loud and brainless (and there's absolutely nothing wrong with mindless escapism!), then this'll fit the bill just fine.
Drop Zone looks okay in the 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen 1080p AVC encoded transfer on this Blu-ray disc. Black levels are pretty good and there isn't much in the way of print damage to complain about. Color reproduction is fairly strong and detail levels, for a catalogue title closing in on two decades old, is definitely a noticeable improvement over the standard definition DVD that came out a few years back. There aren't any compression artifacts nor is there any obvious edge enhancement to note, and while there are a few spots that look just a little bit soft, this appears to have more to do with the way that the film was originally shot rather than the transfer. All in all, this transfer shows a pretty solid effort from Lionsgate this time around.
The primary sound mix on this disc is an English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix, though an alternate language French Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is also included with subtitles available in English, English SDH and Spanish. The DTS-HD mix is a pretty aggressive one, with plenty of good surround usage and a strong low end that you'll really notice any time a plane takes off or a gunshot erupts. Levels are well balanced and dialogue is always easy enough to understand. There are no problems with hiss or distortion to report, the movie sounds pretty good here.
Aside from a trailer for the feature and trailers for a few other Lionsgate releases, the disc contains only a simple menu and chapter selection. It would have been nice to see an interview with Snipes or Busey or even Butler but that didn't happen.
There isn't much in the way of extra features here but at least the audio and video offer an improvement over the standard definition DVD release. As for the movie itself? It's an entertaining, if fairly mindless, action movie that offers some welcome tension and excitement. While it's not necessarily a classic, per se, it's entertaining enough and makes for a fun diversion making for a solid rental.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.