Rangers (2000)

Rangers (2000)

I remember picking up this film on DVD from a shelf in the Times Square Virgin Megastore, or perhaps the DVD store across the square that was a bit cheaper and I can’t remember the name of in 2000. It was an easy sale for me as Matt McCoy, Glenn Plummer and Corbin Bernsen were high on my list of quality video stars. Director Jay Andrews was a name I was familiar with but could not have told you any of his output and with hindsight it’s a pseudonym that I can take or leave.

During my first watch back in 2000, I was surprised by the production value as I did not recognise much of the borrowed footage, until the action climax, when I recognised Red Heat. Between this first viewing and now I am more familiar with Invasion USA, The Hidden, Delta Force and Navy Seals. Films that have had stuntwork liberally repurposed. A tactic that was oddly popular around the time.

Rangers is a one of those movies that reuses quality action sequences from bigger and, in most cases, better action films. In a way it seems quite scammy as you have already paid to see the action sequence on display in another narrative, however, it is interesting to see what is used next and to see how it’s woven in. In my mind the action occupied a lot more of the film, however, in reality it might only sit at about 15 minutes of “reclaimed footage.”

It’s very easy to rant about how poor this film is and be aggrieved by it’s existence, however, there is more to the film than that. Admittedly, more effort goes into creating an action sequence than we have here, but the filmmakers do display a talent for matching up footage, using lighting and costumes to make the story flow with minimal jarring transitions. There is the grain aspect that is very difficult to eradicate as Rangers has a clean digital look, however, Invasion USA trundles in looking like it was shot in the early 80’s. There are a few moments of obvious reasoning in the story, like McCoy’s order for his men to “dress up for Halloween,” in order to explain differing outfits during the one operation that shares action sequences from Navy Seals and Delta Force.

I’m a big fan of Matt McCoy and have seen a lot more of his movies than … might be healthy. Whilst a lot of his films might lack the quality of bigger cinema and he is often considered Not Steve Guttenberg from the Police Academy series he can knock out a terrific performance if the production requires it. I prattled on about him in my Fast Money (1996) review. Rangers does not call for good performances and I think his hokey performance suits the piece quite well, he understands the assignment. Glenn Plummer, however, looks a little uncomfortable and I like to think he is having trouble understanding his characters actions as they frequently waver between dumb and really, really dumb. Then there is Bernsen, no one plays a sleazy public figure better than Corbin Bernsen, he’s perfectly cast here.

Things are sounding rosy right now, however, Rangers is plagued with problems that are mostly unfixable. From poor focus during close ups to a story that feels like it might have been stitched together on the day of filming. Scenes that are just plain awkward, like McCoy’s home and relationship, Plummer’s dramatic motivation, the corrupt military bosses rational and plot twists that are pretty embarrassing. Then there are little problems that make little sense, one moment LA is being invaded by landing craft and the city is evacuated only for Plummer and McCoy to embark on a destructive bus chase through busy city streets.

Jim Wynorski is a director of note, however, he would often use a pseudonym as is the case here. It’s hard to say whether he is a good director who makes some questionable choices, or a bad director who gets lucky. Using Jay Andrews here, this was the third film Wynorski and McCoy made together and easily the poorest.

The story is pretty trite, but obviously not something that you are not supposed to focus too heavily on. If not the story then what? The performances are unbalanced and fairly bland. There is no humour, effects or inspiration and therefore nothing to recommend. We have a film that is really designed to be picked up in a video shop by some idiot that thinks they are getting a hidden gem, wait… that’s me! Delta Force was criticised when it was released by Cannon in the 80’s for being a silly, testosterone filled war movie, Rangers can’t even begin to measure up to Delta Force, even making Delta Force 3 or even Operation Delta Force 3 look like a quality piece of cinema.

Rangers is more an exercise in tolerance. I can tolerate it, as I have my reliable pal McCoy to keep me from throwing beer bottles at the TV. You need to have a reason to watch this as attempting to do so out of curiosity alone will not keep you from wrecking the place. It’s worth noting and I have seen a number of other recommendations for this, the DVD has an audio commentary from McCoy and Andrews and it’s a blast. Two extremely likeable guys chatting about the film and how they made it, that’s the secret to Rangers and the reason to find the DVD.

Rangers got a pretty wide release on DVD and is the best way to view it. If you find it on streaming there is little reason to purchase it as the audio commentary will likely not be included.

That said, the DVD is quite expensive online depending on where you are. To get it in the UK you might have to import from Canada or grab a German release when one comes available.


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