Ignition (2001)


Canada/UK. 2001.


Director – Yves Simoneau, Screenplay – William Davies, Producers – Thomas Hedman & Lisa Richardson, Photography – Jonathan Freeman, Music – Richard Gregoire & Francois Lamoureux, Visual Effects – End Times Productions Ltd, London (Supervisor – Markus Schnatmann), Special Effects Supervisor – Gary Paller, Production Design – Ian Thomas. Production Company – Thomas Hedman/GFT Entertainment/Dogwood Pictures/Redwood Films/CLT-UFA/Ignition Productions.


Bill Pullman (Deputy Conor Gallagher), Lena Olin (Judge Faith Mattis), Colm Feore (General Joel MacAteer), Peter Kent (Major Brunson), Barbara Eve Harris (Lieutenant Taylor Rayne), Nicholas Lea (Peter Scanlon), Hrothgar Mathews (Douglas Penabad), Michael Ironside (Jake Russo)


Conor Gallagher, a burned-out US Marshal, is assigned as bodyguard to Judge Faith Mattis, whose life is under threat as she presides over a trial investigating corruption in the military. Their relationship is an initially prickly one until Gallagher saves her from a bomb planted in her car. Gallagher then joins her in investigating a missing witness. In so doing, they uncover a massive blackmarket arms and drug smuggling operation lorded over by General MacAteer. Hunted as fugitives, they become engaged in a race against time to prevent MacAteer’s plan to assassinate The President using the coming launch of a new Moon mission.

This British-Canadian co-production is an Action Film. It has minor science-fiction content – the backdrop of “the first Moon mission in twenty years” and the novel idea of a space launch being used as an assassination tool – although beyond that is negligible as genre material.

There is a clear degree of polish that has gone into Ignition technically. It is photographed with a slick professional polish that belies the quick throwaway direct-to-video production that it seems at first glance (and has indeed been consigned to). There is a particularly cool prologue of a shoot-up at a gas station, which is shot in black-and-white but where some objects within the frame have been tinted red and where everything turns to normal colour again at the end of the scene as things go up in an explosion.

However, the film is scuttled by a thoroughly routine script. Situations are hackneyed and predictable and it feels like the film has been thrown together with no other purpose than to cram various action sequences in at expected intervals. It is never particularly made clear why the military need to assassinate The President, and even more so, why they are trying to assassinate Lena Olin’s judge in the first place. Moreover, for a judge to become so personally involved in investigating a case under her bench in a way that shows such lack of impartial bias is something that would almost surely have the case declared a mistrial.

Bill Pullman and Lena Olin in Ignition (2001)
Federal marshal Bill Pullman and judge Lena Olin

Ignition features a couple of decent actors in Bill Pullman and Lena Olin, although they have only been pushed into B-action roles. In fact, they end up doing too much acting for what the parts require. Pullman in particular is cast in what would usually be considered .a Bruce Willis role – a cocky hip lone gun with an attitude problem towards his superiors who is recovering from a bad past. He has traditional action movie hero scenes shooting up a recalcitrant washing machine and towing the judge’s car away when she defies his protection but Pullman is clearly miscast in the part – he is an actor whose best effect comes in his polished charm, not in trying to act the raggedly macho he-man. In all, this is a B-grade film that has been cast and given technical polish far in excess of the material at hand – a case of filmmakers having attempted to make a silk purse out a sow’s ear of a script.

Canadian director Yves Simoneau had previously directed much French-language tv and film in Quebec. He dallied in the US making tv mini-series such as the Western Dead Man’s Walk (1996) and the superb Dean R. Koontz adaptation Intensity (1997). His one other genre outings have been the psycho-thriller Mother’s Boys (1994), a tv movie version of the fairytale Beauty and the Beast (2012) and the UFO investigation tv movie Horizon (2013).

Trailer here

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