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07-09-2005, 02:39 PM
"I hope there's a good movie on this flight......"
-John Leguizamo, Executive Decision

I dont know what it was about Stuart Baird's Executive Decision when it came out in theaters in '97 --- Halle Berry looking oh so sexy in that short stewardess uniform and high heels or the fact that Steven Seagal dies within twenty minutes of the film --- but this action thriller tickled my fancy from the very start, even amongst other films of its peers, such as Passenger 57 and Delta Force. It has been on my DVD "want list" (which continues to grow but doesnt seem to get any smaller) for a long time, but I never got around to picking it up even with its low price tag in just about any electronics chain until recently.

My first take on Warner Brother's DVD presentation of this hijacked plane thriller, when I did a review of it on another website as their senior staff writer and DVD reviewer, was one of utter shock and dissapointment; as a matter of fact, as Terrence can confirm, I went as far to say that this was the MOST "un-dynamic" Dolby Digital track I had ever heard because dialogue was just mixed horribly low and effects and sound quality itself were just all over the place on this disc; but after cleaning my DVD player's laser lens recently with a professional grade Allsop cleaner, I am finding that some DVDs that used to sound or look pretty bad are beginning to look and sound slightly better, and so I had a different take on Executive Decision re-visiting it this afternoon --- a SLIGHTLY different take, because that dialogue problem is DEFINITELY still there. But I'll get to that.

Kurt Russell (of whom I am a massive fan of his work --- all the way from his MacReady character in John Carpenter's The Thing to his patch-eyed bad ass Snake Plissken in Carpenter's Escape From New York and Escape From L.A.) --- plays David Grant, an intelligence officer with the U.S. who holds a PHD and is an expert on the tracking of a wanted terrorist; when this terrorist stages his own abduction and falls into U.S. hands, his second in command hijacks an Oceanic Airlines 747 flight leaving Athens, Greece, and loads the plane with DZ-5 nerve gas in which he plans to use the plane as a "poor man's atomic bomb" to fly the 747 directly into Washington, DC and wipe out half the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S. with the nerve gas. It is a very scary similarity to what happened on September 11 in New York City, where our own planes were used against us as a weapon by terrorists. I am sure Baird's Executive Decision would never have made it to theaters had it come out around the time of the September 11 tragedies.

Where did the nerve gas come from, and where does Seagal fit into this story? Well, the film opens with Seagal and his special forces commando team (Joe Morton, BD Wong, among others) attempting to secure this shipment of dangerous nerve toxin in an Italian warehouse, where they believe the Russian mob was behind stealing it; when they raid the warehouse, they realize the nerve gas is already gone, and has been sold to this terrorist who has taken over the Oceanic flight. There is enough nerve gas on board to destroy half the East Coast of the United States, but how they figure that out is this:

After Russell advises the Secretary of Defense during a briefing that he believes this terrorist onboard the plane is planning on using the plane as a bomb by flying it into Washington and releasing the nerve gas, Seagal and an engineer (Oliver Platt) devise a scheme to use a stealth fighter plane to sneak under the hijacked 747 and get Seagal's commando crew on board using a specially developed sleeve that could connect the two planes, and that way, Seagal and his team could take over the terrorists onboard and land the plane safely. Unfortunately, during the mid-air transfer, the sleeve comes loose, and Seagal is instantly killed, thrown from the sleeve and to his death while the other members of his team, including Platt and Russell, make it on board. Many people wonder what this film would have been like if Seagal was in the entire length of the movie, and what kind of role he would play, but his character is eliminated very early on, and its one of the things that makes this film infamous when people talk about it.

Once onboard, Joe Morton's character, now paralyzed during the mid-air transfer, figures out that the gallons of nerve gas on board must be controlled by a "sleeper" --- a passenger onboard somewhere who is holding the trigger to a bomb connected to the gas. Using their special equipment, and whatever they have left that wasnt lost when the sleeve broke, Seagal's team, including John Leguizamo, begin making preparations to take over the plane, while Morton and Platt, once finding the bomb connecting the nerve gas, try and dismantle it. Eventually, Russell and Leguzamo's team storm the plane, and after mistakenly identifying the wrong guy initially, target the "sleeper" who has his hand on the trigger --- he is actually a French Algerian who was the maker of the bomb itself. After and hand to hand struggle with this guy, while the commandos kill the rest of the terrorists, Russell manages to wrestle the detonation device out of this guy's hand just in time as Morton and Platt disconnect the bomb at the last possible second before detonation --- its a pretty exciting part and will have you on the edge of your seat, which is what a good action thriller should do.

But, Russell soon finds out that the incident is not over, as once going to to the cockpit of the plane in order to get on the radio and inform Washington not to shoot the plane down because it has crossed what they call "the fail safe line" because the good guys have taken it back over, he discovers, after an altercation with the lead terrorist, that he has machine-gunned the cockpit down, killing both pilots.....the 747 is now out of control, and Russell must use his meager flying experience to land the crippled aircraft in the film's most dramatic, exciting climax.

Something very small and sort of pointless I noticed on the DVD version of this film as compared to the version they always showed on cable --- there is a scene where Halle Berry is standing in front of the elevator shaft that leads to the bottom galley of the airplane, covering Kurt Russell who is in there so he is not viewed by the lead terrorist while she talks to him, asking him about what threatening the innocent people on the plane has to do with his cause --- in the cable version, the terrorist replies with something about where it says something in "the Koran" (the Muslim holy book), whereas on the DVD, he says "perhaps it is not your place to understand......" Just a quick difference I noticed between the two versions --- but that was it; otherwise Executive Decision is the same version you've seen on cable countless times (if you have in fact seen it). Now, the next DVD I am preparing to review --- Cop Land: Exclusive Director's Cut --- has major differences between it and the version that's always on cable these days because it is a "director's cut" of the film.

Although always being infamous as the movie that kills Steven Seagal within 20 minutes or so!, Executive Decision belongs up on your DVD collection shelf if you have and enjoy other titles in this genre, like the aforementioned Passenger 57, Delta Force or if you're a fan of downright action such as the Jerry Bruckheimer produced monster blockbusters like Armageddon, The Rock, Crimson Tide or Gone in 60 Seconds. And then again, there's Halle Berry in that really, really short stewardess outfit and high heels.....lord have mercy does she look delicious in this....boy does Russell get lucky at the end of this film......

In a typical, cheap Warner Brother snapper case, and with that usual back-catalog style "flipper" disc scheme they always go with, I had originally analyzed Executive Decision as one of the worst discs I had ever heard or seen from the studio.....but my views have changed a bit in this re-review I am doing for YOU fine folks on here....


I ran the widescreen side of this DVD on my 55" screen, of course, and because, again, this is Warner Brothers we're talking about here, I have to guess on the aspect ratio --- because there was letterboxing apparent, this was either shot in 2:35:1 or 2:40:1; the first time I watched this DVD and did a review on it, I was horribly dissapointed --- I mean there were literally spots that looked so bad with "pops" and "crackles" in the print, it looked like you were watching this on a dirty movie theater projector; but, like I said, perhaps because I professionally cleaned by DVD player's lens a few consecutive times since that review, under a more scrutinizing eye, Executive Decision didnt look all that bad --- those moments are still there, where you see the dirt and "popping" of debris on the screen, mainly in one beginning shot --- but it didnt seem so distracting watching it this time around. It is clear, though, that this film was not given a lot of care for the DVD transfer from Warner. There is a slight, thin layer of grain that runs through the feature if you look VERY close, and the overall colors dont look so bright. But not as awful as I remember the first time around. Just dont go in expecting reference-grade video from this title, because this is one of those back-catalog Warner titles they didnt do much work on, along the lines of other Seagal action DVDs like Out For Justice or some others, which just look and sound horrible.


Again, upon my first review of this DVD, I called it the most "un-dynamic Dolby 5.1 surround track I had ALMOST ever heard," but that was a tad bit harsh on my part.....sure, this mix is not what you are going to look to when you want to wow someone on the merits of surround audio, but, again, possibly because of the recent cleaning of my DVD player, the audio wasnt quite as bad as I had recalled from my first review. However, the main problem with this track STILL exists: the dialogue channel has been recorded just HORRENDOUSLY lower than the rest of the effects, which really hurts this film because A LOT of it has characters whispering to one another beneath a hijacked 747. It's hard to make out what characters are saying until you jack your processor's volume up to a much higher than normal level, when then all of a sudden, you are blown through the wall from a next scene of a plane taking off or something.

Surround usage is decent, as I found this time around, if sounding just a tad bit "dated"; the sounds of fighter planes roaring around the soundstage come in loud through the surround channels, and the sounds of planes taking off will ROAR from front to back and vice versa, and there are some moments of bullet fire making their way into the rears. But the overall SOUND of this Dolby 5.1 mix sounds, as I said, "dated" and is bested by more modern 5.1 surround mixes on the market. The main problem with this track, as I have stressed (and this also happens on Warner's House on Haunted Hill (1999)), is that the dialogue and center channel information --- well, dialogue in particular --- has been recorded HORRENDOUSLY lower than the rest of the mix, and you are going to find yourself playing with your remote's volume all through the length of this DVD, unless you can find a comfortable middle position, which sometimes takes awhile of adjusting a system.

Another bare-bones back-catalog title from the WB, Executive Decision came only with:

-Interactive Menus
-Production Notes
-Scene Access

steamboy 2
07-12-2005, 02:06 PM
Enjoy your review & i also own this too, but i have the old ld version and i have not seen it in a while. it's a good action film & i'm a big russell fan too. you seem to have some of same taste i have in movies also( very cool ).

07-12-2005, 02:45 PM
Enjoy your review & i also own this too, but i have the old ld version and i have not seen it in a while. it's a good action film & i'm a big russell fan too. you seem to have some of same taste i have in movies also( very cool ).

Thanks a million for the kind words, Steamboy! It seems we DO have the same taste in films! Thank you for taking the time to say you enjoyed the review-----thats what they're here for!