Night Siege - Project: Shadowchaser 2

Own it!

review by Scott Hamilton and Chris Holland
See also:

Project: Shadowchaser

Future Kick

Cherry 2000

Night Siege - Project: Shadowchaser 2

Lava Lamp

Our rating: one LAVA® motion lamp.

That old party favorite,
Pin the Hat on the Android.
The original Project: Shadowchaser was the movie that figured out that Terminator and Die Hard rip-offs were the two great rip-offs that rip great together. Even though the film lacked any inspiration beyond the initial premise, it must have done well enough on video that most of the key personnel reunited for Night Siege - Project: Shadowchaser 2. This time director John Eyres came up with a bold follow-up to his rip-off strategy. Instead of ripping-off Die Hard the same way, he'd rip off Die Hard in the ways he missed the first time. Perhaps an even better indication that Project: Shadowchaser did well is that someone threw a lot of money at Night Siege. It's not Terminator 2, but they were able to afford some expensive scenes well beyond the capability of the first film.

Mortal Kombat games keep
adding more violence.
Night Siege is set on Christmas Eve, for no other reason than that Die Hard was set on that same night. Laurie (Beth Toussaint, who has the distinction of playing the relative of a regular cast member on both Star Trek and Babylon 5) is a nuclear physicist and single mom who apparently went through the Christmas Jones Doctoral Program for Female Students who Look like Aspiring Actors. Her son Ricky (Danny Hill) has hitchhiked to her workplace, a nuclear weapons facility, but luckily he is picked up on the road by Frank (Bryan Genesse), the plant's janitor. Naturally, Frank prefers to be called a "maintenance supervisor," which is kind of like a burger-flipper calling himself a chef – but in this case, the burgers are made of fertilizer and the flipper manages to burn them every time. After a few male-bonding moments we learn that Frank is actually something of a drunk who blew his only shot at a major league baseball career. (If you can't smell the redemption and father-replacement subplots by now, you need to watch more b-movies.) Laurie spends a few quality minutes of screen time bawling out her soused subordinate before she and Ricky depart for their Christmas Eve celebrations. Sensing that she is about to drive right out of the film, Laurie remembers something she left back at the office and turns around, Ricky in tow, to retrieve it.

"So you're my biggest fan!"
With all the members of this makeshift family improbably gathered together in one building, terrorists strike. Of course. A bunch of goons break into the facility, led by the android from the first film (Frank Zagarino). Or is it the same android? It's not easy to tell. The first film took place in the future and the android was largely emotionless and named "Romulus." Night Siege doesn't feature much in the way of futuristic motifs, and this unnamed android is expressive to the point of having a sense of humor. The android portions of the plot are so half-baked that we suspect they were added midway through the shoot, almost as if the producers heard during production that Project: Shadowchaser was a success and decided to make Night Siege a Shadowchaser sequel on the spot.

The terrorists slaughter the entire staff of the facility who have thoughtfully collected for a Christmas party in the facility's cafeteria, which looks more like a hotel ballroom (look at the mirrored ceiling!). The sequence also reveals that the facility recruits heavily from the Christmas Jones Program, and ends with a moment in which Zagarino dons a party hat to wish his victims a Merry Christmas. It comes this close to being a clever moment, but the android is otherwise so mean-spirited that it's tough to believe this moment of levity. It might also have worked better had this Christmas wish come before the slaughter.

Kids. They get a Christmas present,
and break it the same day.
What separates this film from Die Hard (other than its lack of a quality script) is that these terrorists really are terrorists. They're after a neutron-bomb type thingy called "the Cobra," and once Laurie figures out what they're doing, she takes steps to thwart the theft. Placing yourself between an android and the weapon of mass destruction that he loves is never a good idea, as Laurie and her compatriots soon learn. The android begins to tear the plant apart in search of the voice chip "key" that Laurie stole from the weapons vault door. When that doesn't give him the desired results, he starts shooting down passenger planes with surface-to-air missiles that just happen to be installed at the plant. And people said deregulating the power industry wouldn't work! We'd talk more about the plot, but there's hardly a point. Towards the end even the filmmakers seem to forget about the plot in favor of more fight scenes, and as near as we can tell the terrorists actually get away with the super weapon.

Hulk smash!
The amazing thing about Night Siege is that someone threw some moolah at it. The aforementioned scene in which a plane is shot down is done with some nice model work. There's a bit where the android fires the missiles at the assembled police cars outside. Many explosions result, though it may be the same two shot from a bunch of angles. Most staggeringly, there's a martial arts fight between Frank (who, as luck would have it, is a former kickboxing champ) and a terrorist – in which the terrorist is on fire. It's actually a pretty impressive scene – do you have any idea how many times they probably had to have some stuntman do a full burn to get the shots they needed? That ain't cheap. This one fight probably cost more than most Larry Buchanan films.

No matter how much money ends up on screen, though, a movie lives and dies by its script. From that perspective, Night Siege is stillborn, eschewing an actual story to imitate the distinctive traits and scenes from other, better movies. There's a retread of the night-goggles scene from Silence of the Lambs. The computer-savvy terrorist accompanies his hacking with a lot of snappy patter, a la Die Hard. The hero finishes off his opponent with a (supposedly) snappy one-liner, much like Terminator 2. The inclusion of so many elements from other movies prompted us to wonder: why didn't Eyres rip off other things from the movies he enjoyed, like well-written dialogue, likable characters, and unpredictable events? There's nothing wrong with imitating the artists one admires, but sub-par parroting like this is beyond loathsome.

Own it!

Review date: 01/08/2003

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