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Greenmail
cast: Stephen Baldwin, Kelly Rowan, Tom Skerritt, and D.B. Sweeney

director: Jonathan Heap

92 minutes (15) 2001
High Fliers DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Christopher Geary
The US Treasury's bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has always puzzled me. Did this law enforcement outfit get its remit by default? Perhaps because no other organisation wanted the - potentially unpopular - task of policing trade in such items? (I'm sure the American people have always felt suspicious of federal interference in their drinking and smoking habits - never mind their gun rights!) Today, it's still an odd combination of things to be policed by one US agency, and so ATF may never be a 'glamour profession' like the Secret Service. However, the job of the ATF bureau is presented here as heroic anti-terrorist duty. Specifically, they're the bomb squad.
   Following a mysterious explosion at a controversial chemical processing plant, ATF agents have arrested the leader of an extremist environmental group. When the bombing attacks continue and innocent lives are lost, while the 'eco-terrorist' in already in custody, the female agent in charge of the morally troubling case has to team up with her chief suspect to catch the real killer...
   Despite a promising storyline, a likeable cast, and above average direction, this does not avoid 'cop movie' clichés. When Tom Skerritt's character announces his impending retirement, we can safely predict he's going to die tragically on screen. As the beautiful ATF agent Ashley Pryor, blonde Kelly Rowan makes for a spirited heroine and, as wrongly accused saboteur Scott, even Stephen Baldwin is slightly less wooden than usual. There are decent pyrotechnical effects, efficiently staged gun battles, and a tense shootout with the bad guy, but this is honestly no better or worse than any of the other dozen or more TV flicks we have seen released on DVD recently.
   Jonathan Heap directed the amazingly good short film, 12:01 (1990), and its sadly less impressive feature-length version (eclipsed on release by the similarly themed, but not explicitly science fictional, Groundhog Day, 1993), before he turned out an underrated psychological thriller, Benefit Of The Doubt (1993), and made the flawed Past Perfect (1998). Although Greenmail is watchable as a cop drama and action thriller, Heap has yet to fulfil the initial promise of his SF hit.
   DVD extras: none (same as the rental release), except for some trailers playing before the main feature, and even these cannot be accessed separately.
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