Warhead (1996)


USA. 1996.


Director – Mark Roper, Screenplay – Jeff Albert, Story/Producer – Danny Lerner, Photography – Rod Stewart, Music – Robert O. Raglund, Special Effects Supervisor – Rick Creswell, Production Design – David Varod. Production Company – Nu World


Frank Zagarino (Lieutenant Tannen), Joe Lara (General Kraft), Brian O’Shaughnessy (General Edwards), Elizabeth Giordano (Dr Jessica Evans), Todd Jensen (Director Thomas Lansdale), Michael McCabe (Dr Evans)


Lieutenant Tannen heads a Special Forces team to apprehend the self-appointed General Kraft, a former Special Forces operative who now heads a militant white supremacist group. However, Kraft flees capture. Tannen then realises that Kraft is attempting to capture a nuclear missile silo. He brings in the scientist Dr Evans who can change the missile codes, only for Kraft to abduct Evans in mid-flight. As Tannen attempts to stop Kraft in Haiti, all his men are killed in an ambush. Afterwards, Tannen quits the service. However, Kraft invades a hidden nuclear missile silo, armed with Evans’ special computer program that can override any missile codes, and announces that he is going to launch a missile on Washington D.C. unless the President resigns and he is paid one billion dollars. Tannen is persuaded to return by Evans’ daughter Jessica. He assembles a new team and goes on an unauthorised mission to stop Kraft.

Warhead is an action film from Nu World, a prolific production company that makes a substantial number of B-budget, direct-to-video action releases, including the various Project Shadowchaser, Cyborg Cop and Operation Delta Force series’ and a good many cheap CGI monster movies.

Warhead ventures onto the oft-used theme of nuclear hijacking. Indeed, there are a surprising number of similarities between Warhead and Twilight’s Last Gleaming (1977) wherein a rogue US general captured a missile silo and threatened to launch a warhead unless the US government told the truth about the Vietnam War. For a time, Warhead seems like it is going to be a similar kind of politically charged film. The opening raises the spectre of the neo-Nazi movement with reference to the Oklahoma City bombing and KKK and there are some angrily potent speeches later in the piece where the villain justifies what he does in terms of Montana militia-speak. The difference that becomes apparent is that while Twilight’s Last Gleaming was a thriller with a political message to write, Warhead is only an action film. The initial political angle quickly gives way to action movie formula.

The action is at least competently conducted by Mark Roper, the South African born director of various other Nu World films like Human Timebomb (1994), Project Shadowchaser 4/Alien Chaser/Orion’s Key (1996), City of Fear (2001), Marines (2003), their Nature Unleashed films and a couple of the Operation Delta Force sequels. Roper stages some impressive action sequences in the opening farm shootout and particularly during the ambush on the bridge. The film also casts Frank Zagarino, previously the snow-white blonde killer android from Project Shadowchaser (1992) and sequels. This is the first occasion where one has seen Zagarino play a hero, something at which he acquits himself quite well. In the end, neither Roper’s action sequences nor the glimmer of a political bent is enough to stop Warhead from slipping into the formulaic. The action sequences take over at timed intervals, the identity of the traitor is easy to spot and so on.

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