THE ALTERNATE

the alternate

THE ALTERNATE (2000)

TAGLINE: “Kill The President…Kill The Hostages…Escape”

IMDB Rating: 2.4/10

      This was a terrible idea. We’re beginning to see that now. When we’re lying on our death beds, looking back at our lives, will we lament the time we have spent on this project? Will we wish we had spent these hours smoking crack and banging hookers? Quite possibly. But as a single tear of regret navigates a path down our wizened, gnarled cheeks, we will wipe it away, because we will have remembered ‘The Alternate’.

            This film is 91 minutes long but took over 3 hours to view because we were laughing so hard, we had to stop the DVD continually and rewind it. This, more than any film so far, is the reason why we are torturing ourselves with this drivel. Where to begin? How about the cover? A moody monochrome White House with the names of the three stars emblazoned across the top. To the left, ERIC ROBERTS, underneath- an image of Eric looking away into the middle distance- proud, brave, indefatigable. To the right, MICHAEL MADSEN– laconic, cool, unflappable. In the centre- ICE-T. Underneath? A picture of someone else. THEY PUT THE WRONG F*CKING PICTURE ON THE DVD COVER. To compound matters, it is a picture of THE ONLY OTHER BLACK GUY IN THE FILM. Wonderful.

            In truth, it is possible to write a meaty tome on everything that is wrong with ‘The Alternate’, it’s a staggering piece of work. How about the premise, a terrorist attack on the President while he is hosting a $10,000 a plate dinner…FOR THE SYMPOSIUM ON WORLD HUNGER? Genius.

            The plot, such as it is, is a low grade Die Hard rip off. A CIA team stage a mock kidnapping of the President, who will then escape, boosting his ratings just before the election. Except the President isn’t in on the plot. And Eric Roberts, a last minute addition to the team, thinks there’s something fishy going on. Beyond just the script. Perhaps it’s the fact that this crack CIA team are wearing disguises for no reason. Disguises that have obviously been purchased from the nearest pound shop. Bright purple child’s sunglasses? Check. Comedy nylon moustaches? Check. Perhaps his suspicions are also aroused by the fake fingerprint fingertips that are handed out to the kidnap team in neat presentation boxes. Six for each hand….?

            It’s also an apposite time to mention that the President has received telephone threats from a ludicrously ‘French’ accented fanatic named Ahmed who represents ‘The Unified Terrorist Coalition’. It’s never specified what this coalition is ‘for’. Campaigning for Terrorist rights? Equal pay and paternity leave for suicide bombers? Unemployment advice for Jihadists? Who cares? This film is ball bag and we’re loving every bullsh*t, bonkers moment of it.

            The CIA team take out the President’s Secret Service detail with blow darts disguised as toothpicks (shall we repeat that?) and lock down the hotel. But surprise, surprise, the rogue CIA team leader is actually ‘Ahmed’. So the fake kidnapping is now a real kidnapping and Eric Roberts learns all this by accident as he watches on CCTV from his post in the control room. Are you following all this?

Eric Roberts is as baffled as we are. He’s so shocked, he immediately pours coffee from the pot over the floor, pulls the wires out of the coffee machine and lays them in the puddle. And thus begins a chain of the least exciting, sub A-Team shootouts and stand offs in cinema history.

julia roberts emma roberts
“We’re both related to a movie star!!”

 

A squad of highly trained, heavily armed terrorists firstly choose not to shoot Eric Roberts when he marches into the room to confront Ahmed, are unable to hit Eric Roberts when he decides to rescue the President and are too stunned to kill Eric Roberts when he catapults Ahmed 6 feet into the air by rippling the rug Ahmed is standing on. He ripples the rug. It’s the barmiest moment of the project so far. Splendid.

            When the shooting finally commences, thousands of rounds are expended. Furniture is shredded. Doors and walls are destroyed. The price of lead on the stock market rockets. Eric Roberts is so keen to save the President, he uses his Commander In Chief as a shield as he slides down a long table to safety. But still no-one is hit. Eric and the President hide in a hotel bedroom. And then for absolutely no reason, after this less than epic, bloodless gun battle, Eric decides he’s off, leaving the President as bewildered as we are, and jumps off the balcony, using a flag as a rope. Er…

eric roberts

 

            This film is an in-growing hair on the scrotal sac of cinema. This is confirmed when one of Ahmed’s accomplices is electrocuted when she falls into Eric’s coffee pot trap… and turns on the machine.

So to clarify- Eric’s ad-hoc plan depended on the following:

  • One of the terrorists fancying a coffee
  • One of the terrorists not prepared to make their own coffee
  • One of the terrorists fancying hours old coffee
  • One of the terrorists not spotting an enormous puddle in front of the coffee machine
  • One of the terrorists not noticing two wires lying in that big puddle
  • One of the terrorists not wearing rubber soles on their shoes

This film has fallen off a cliff. But it’s a long way to the ground.

  • The hotel is in lockdown, impregnable to the FBI outside led by Michael Madsen. No-one can get in or out or move about within. Unless the plot demands it. And if the plot demands Eric Roberts needs to go upstairs, f*ck you, no-one tells Eric Roberts he can’t go upstairs.
  • ‘Star’ of the film, Ice-T (the real one) is in this film for five minutes at the beginning, killed and never seen or mentioned again.
  • When a member of the hotel staff points to a switch that triggers a laser with his left hand, the close up is of a patently different switch…and of a right hand.
  • The female journalist outside the hotel reporting on the kidnap of the President is wearing a VERY short tennis skirt which although flattering is not entirely professional. Though the ratings must be high. Probably Fox News.
  • The protagonists must have at least 30 opportunities to kill one another but on every occasion fail to take them, each occasion preceded by a rambling monologue concerning the reason why they are about to die.  But then if the plot unfolded logically, the duration of this clunker would be about 20 minutes.

We could go on. Perhaps we should. We haven’t even mentioned Eric swinging across a hotel pool on some bunting, defying the laws of both physics AND geometry, nor have we mentioned Ahmed’s 150 foot jump from a helicopter onto a concrete roof that results in nothing more than another interminable punch up, but you get the idea. Every utterance, action and plot twist in ‘The Alternate’ is so ludicrous, you conclude that its 18 certificate is to limit the number of impressionable youngsters who following a viewing, turn their back on cinema forever. And you wouldn’t blame them.

            Perhaps a different tagline for the DVD cover would have been more appropriate-

‘The Alternate’….For God’s Sake Choose Something Else.

 

2 Comments

  1. Jack Burton says:

    I have a VHS copy of this masterpiece that goes by the alias “Agent of Death”.I quite enjoyed the outtakes,which boldly showed Micheal Madsen being paid for his talents in hookers.

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