- Wide Release
- Director: U. Wolfgang Wagenknecht
- Written by: U. Wolfgang Wagenknecht, Steve Straka
- Running Time: 81 minutes
- Language: English
- MPAA Rating: PG - Parental Guidance Suggested
- Cast: Riley Smith, Dominique Swain, Paul Logan, Tom Sizemore, Brent Le Macks, Elizabeth Daily, Andi Finch, Yvonne Arias, Dan Coplan, Shane P. Coyle, Matt Hanson, Lydia Hull, John Keefe, Taylor Kinney, Seth William Meier, Andi Scurry, John Michael Sudol, Johnny Russo, Devron Minion, Rachel Specter, Brooke Paller, Aiko Tanaka, Rachel Sterling, Michael J. Wick, Michal Yannai
Tom Sizemore's sad descent from A-List Hollywood tough guy to second rate straight to video z-movie slob, probably really began in the mid 2000s with the release of "Triple-X Tom", a video showing a clearly drugged and intoxicated Sizemore engaging in numerous sex acts with various Los Angeles based prostitutes. Considering that I was actually a fan of his going back to 1991, when he appeared in "Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man", I'm forever reminded with each straight to video piece of crap he attaches his name to, how far this once promising actor has fallen.
Long gone are his days of choosing good scripts from bad and working alongside the likes of Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott and Tom Hanks; nowadays its all about what movie project will pay him enough to feed his out of control drug dependency. It should be noted that Tom has over twenty films slated for the next two years, so, as a straight to video devotee, I'll have plenty of drugged n' desperate Tom to wade through. If anyone wants to point to the industry's darkest side, I'm guessing it would be a pretty good bet to start with Tom. Helping a notorious drug addict to feed his addiction, just to see his once-popular Hollywood name attached to whatever indie turd in production in hopes that it'll garner their film a modicum of legit attention is, well, a low I'll never understand. "White Air" is one of those films Tom made at the height of his legal woes in 06-07, no doubt to pay down some of the debts he was accumulating, and it shows. From the looks of things, the producers had secured Tom for a day or two, and attempted to shoot all of his scenes in a very short period of time, as quickly as possible, leading to some rushed, sweaty moments and, in at least one case, some terrible dubbing. Even though he has some good scenes with Riley Smith, it's pretty clear that Tom, looking pale and haggard throughout, could care less about the material or the film he is making, best exemplified in the bewildering final shot where he stares off into space, as if unsure of how he should be playing the scene. The old pre-drug addicted Sizemore would have known perfectly how to handle it, but this guy, with his problems and apathy towards the material, fuggetaboutit.
On the other side of the coin, I can't place all the blame on Sizemore's lap. While he's a major league distraction, the film was already a mess to begin with. It's a sports drama in the vein of "Rad" and "Thrashin'", minus the tension needed to make it work. The strange thing about these types of films is that they are generally pretty dang easy to make. They tend to follow a formula, and if you stick to that formula, it's nearly impossible to go wrong with a sports flick. Sadly, the thing I think that tanks "White Air" is that first-time director, U. Wolfgang Wagenknecht, seems intent on making a character-driven sports film, that, while remaining a slave to the sports-flick blueprint I just mentioned, instead of heightening the tension, only drags it down. Kudos for ambition, I guess.
Even though Alex Crow (Riley Smith) was a once-promising snowboarder his shit hasn't been working that well the last couple years, forcing one of his sponsors to drop him outright. You can't really blame him considering he spends most of waking hours toiling away as a grease monkey a local garage run by his friend and mentor Steve (Tom Sizemore) instead of training. Sadly, with each new snowboard competition, Alex seems to come away with only bruises, a hurt ego and overriding thoughts of abandoning his dreams. Rubbing it in his face is his former rival, Jason (Brent le Macks), a spoiled rich kid archetype who has seemingly come out ahead of the pack as one of the darlings of the snow boarding circuit. As Alex begins to second guess himself, and his career ambitions of being a champion snowboarder, he's shaken back to reality thanks to the support of his best friend and trainer Pete (Paul Logan) and a local gal with a crush, Christie (Dominique Swain). Revitalized and with a new passion for the sport, it isn't long before Alex is jumping back into it with both feet, training and getting ready for the giant super pipe competition, a competition that promises to either make or break Alex.
Yeah, you've seen all of this before. There's absolutely nothing new here, and for some reason, the film comes off as a nearly unwatchable mess when it should be a minor diversion. There's zilch for tension, and the film simply does not flow as it should, maybe because it relies so heavily on nearly every scene ending with characters berating each other verbally, often for no reason. Guys, people yelling at each for no reason does not equal good drama. It's just annoying. There's also the flashback gimmick which is used to excess here. So many fucking needless flashbacks that one wonders if its an attempt by the filmmakers to draw out the film's run time -- clearly it couldn't be a creative decision. We're talking a flashback of events that have just transpired mere minutes - minutes (!) - earlier. Also, for a film that is marketed to late teen-early twenty snowboarding enthusiasts, there's very little actual snowboarding in the film (about twenty minutes total) -- and absolutely nothing to highlight just how much fun the sport is or can be. To make matters even worse, the actual snow boarding set pieces are very poorly filmed, unexciting, and much of them, maybe all of them, are obscured under a hazy, greenish tint. It was understandable with regards to the flashback scenes but during the actual competitions, what the frig?
Another problem I had with the film is that the central character here, Alex (Riley Smith) is too much of cynical jackass to get behind in any kind of real way. In fact, rooting for him is a near impossibility. Forever belly aching over the most insignificant of things, Alex is one of those chip on his shoulder types who feels as though he is entitled to greatness even if he hasn't earned it, and isn't willing to work for it. He grows on you but it's more in a ugly fungus kind of way. All around him, people are going out of their way to help him, coach him and generally make his life better (Steve even offers him a full time job and to pay for his schooling), but in nearly every instance, he's content to piss on their efforts. For me, the final straw came when he attacked his best friend Pete (Paul Logan, giving the film's best performance) for something so petty, I was wondering why the script writers would even attempt to sell such contrivance, especially when all it did was make me loathe the main character even more than I already did. And at that point in the script, I really should have been saddling up to ride that Super Pipe with him. Riley Smith, for what it's worth, isn't a bad actor, it's just the material he's working with isn't the greatest, and he seems aware of that reality. Dominique Swain, as the love interest, doesn't have much to do, and was clearly hired to be the film's name eye-candy. It's too bad, because she's another talented actress wasted in a bad movie.
For folks picking this up because they saw Tom Sizemore's mug on the cover (as I did), the best thing you could do is not watch it. This film is rubbish and you'd do well to avoid. Go get one of Sizemore's earlier films and try to remember him as he was, not as he is. For snowboarding aficionados, prepare to feel the sting of being duped.