Stealth

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Starring Josh Lucas, Jessica Biel, and Jamie Foxx. Rated PG. For showtimes, please see page 71

There are times when an otherwise peaceable man must indulge in violence. Not just random mayhem, but the cool and controlled promise of death that surrounds certain machines. The hopological impulse finds expression in gun magazines, Jane's catalogue, Soldier of Fortune, and the works of Tom Clancy, just to name a few examples of weapon porn that I would deny owning.

Stealth not only appeals to these impulses, it rubs them in your face while gyrating in your lap. It is like the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Web page sprung to life, all glistening, lethal, and futuristic.

It is also one of the stupidest movies that I have ever seen. Basically a mash-up of Top Gun and War Games, it is the story of a mini-squadron of three elite Navy pilots. Jessica Biel plays the hot, blond, curvy babe who is saving herself for true love. Jamie Foxx plays the one who is black and therefore likes to dance around in his underwear listening to disco when not seducing women (the movie strangely fails to add a watermelon-eating scene). Josh Lucas plays the white leader burdened with these eccentric affirmative-action types.

Led by grim, sunglasses-wearing commander Sam Shepard, whose playwriting income has evidently dried up or was invested in WorldCom stock, the squadron has been trained to attack terrorist targets with precision-guided munitions. They fly experimental fighter-bombers with unique forward-sweeping variable angle wings, and they usually disobey orders. For example, they object to bombing a terrorist camp because nuclear fallout will drift over a nearby village of civilians. Kids today!

On the eve of operational deployment, the squadron is suddenly augmented by an even more advanced prototype, the "EDI" (presumably named after the bodacious spouse of Russ Meyers). It is a stubby VSTOL that can pull off awesome vectored-thrust manoeuvres with no G limits on the pilot because there is no pilot. EDI is a thinking computer.

Speaking in the calm, neutered tones of HAL9000, EDI seems to be the perfect wingman at first. But after a fateful lightning strike, EDI becomes…alive! And so does W.D. Richter's screenplay, which sees EDI also start to disobey orders like every elite antiterrorist pilot and making snappy comebacks in the nettled, faintly prissy tones of the Knight Rider car.

Now the Good Planes have to chase the Bad Plane all around the Bering Sea before it starts the Third World War or the special- effects budget runs out. Director Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious) brings his patented "blurry-cam" look to the skies, and it's pretty exhilarating. With its visual sophistication and powerful sound mix, Stealth would make an excellent basis for a Ridefilm. Unfortunately, it keeps having to stop for another increment of boring, unbelievable story. Too bad EDI couldn't blow that up too.