The Zone (1996) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

The Zone is probably not a movie you want to see. Spinning it positively, it is a modest third-tier international actioner which belongs in the hyphen world (straight-to-vid, or made-for-cable). It stars Robert "Captain Cable" Davi as some kind of renegade free-lance operative who has to be coerced by an unscrupulous CIA boss into taking each new mission, presumably because of some bad will generated by previous betrayals. The end of the movie seems to indicate that this film may have been the pilot for an ongoing series of films, something like a second-rate James Bond franchise. Whatever future plans the developers once had for ace fly-boy Rowdy Welles, they never materialized. There may have been many reasons for that, as you'll see later in these comments, but the major drawback to such a series can be summed up in five words: Robert Davi as James Bond.

Rowdy Welles (Davi) has exactly the same tempestuous love-hate relationship with his CIA boss (Ben Gazzara) that McCloud had with J.D. Cannon. Gazzara knows that Davi is a reckless cowboy who disregards the rules, but he gets the job done, dammit, and he's one hell of an American. In this case, the job involves some arms dealers in the newly-emerging country of Marvesh (played by Hungary) who are planning to deliver nuclear bombs to terrorists. Despite the fact that Marvesh is so corrupt that the head arms dealer (Alexander Godunov) really runs the country, Captain Cable has to stop the plan virtually unassisted, although he is fortunate to have an ally working undercover as the arms dealer's girlfriend.

Everything progresses as predictably as you might expect, but the film is not a total washout. I can tell you some vaguely interesting things about it.

  • Alexander Godunov, the loose and limber classical dancer who became a stiff actor, plays the psychotic bad guy. Because Godunov seems like kind of a shy, handsome, quiet type, and is not too cocky, the casting adds a little flavor to the film. Although he was trim and athletic and not very old (46), Godunov died mysteriously just a few weeks after this movie was lensed, presumably as a result of a lifetime of very heavy Vodka consumption. If you watch this film, you can not only see his last public appearance as an actor, but you can also see the last time he danced in public, since he cavorts around in an impressive Hungarian (er ... Marveshian) folk dance with a gypsy entertainer. I'm not sure how logical it is to portray a peasant arms dealer as the possessor of this kind of dancing talent, or how sensible it is to insert a long musical number into a violent film about terrorists, but I guess those are the sorts of things you do when you are producing low budget films, and one of your stars happens to have been one of the greatest dancers in the world. Why waste it?

  • The Zone was actually filmed in Hungary, the first half mostly in Budapest, the second half on a military base somewhere out in the countryside. The interiors are actual Budapest restaurants and shopping bazaars and the early action scenes are actually filmed on boats cruising the Danube, on actual local streetcars, at the Luna Park, and across a wide swath of city streets on both sides of the river. That may be interesting to you if you enjoy the travelogue aspect of Bondian films. I once lived in Pest, and had a girlfriend who lived in Buda. I miss my time and my friends in Hungary, so a lot of the film consisted of nostalgia for me.

  • There are some pretty good aviation stunts, if you like that sort of thing. The film follows the Bond formula slavishly, and that means there is a spectacular opening sequence in which Davi's character shows off some some impressive aerial artistry.

  • There are plenty of other homages to Bond, including a classic scene where the bad guy has Davi cornered on a bridge, and is about to kill him, when Davi times a precipitous jump perfectly to land on a passing boat. When the villain runs to the downriver side of the bridge, Davi is holding a champagne bottle and hoisting a glass upward in the direction of Mr. Baddie. Classic Bond moment, and probably the best two minutes of the film.

So much for the interesting things. On the negative side, you already know that the plot and characterizations consist of film clichés. Those problems are common to many movies which are still being shown now and then, and would not have been enough to cast this film into the utter oblivion which it has achieved. The reason why you don't see this on cable once in a while is that some of the film's dialogue, which seemed innocuous in 1996, now seems completely tasteless in a post 9-11 world. A very specific example is that Godunov is going to supply the terrorists with "enough explosives to destroy the World Trade Center."


If not for the unfortunate prescience of such dialogue, you might have been able to catch The Zone on the telly now and again, but now? Well, that probably ain't gonna happen.

To tell you the truth, I don't know anything about the two females listed below in the nudity report. I looked up Lara Harris, and she has been in some good movies that I have seen, like The Fisher King, Demolition Man and Cameron Crowe's Singles. I don't remember her in any of those films. Of course, you'd have to have a helluva memory to recall her unforgettable performance in Demolition Man as "Taco Bell Customer", especially since that film takes place in a future time when ALL restaurants are Taco Bells.

Oh, yeah, now I remember her. She's the one who took the medium sauce and an extra napkin. Awesome!

Good roles or not, she was at least in some good films in the early 90s, but she has done almost nothing in the past five years.

As for Patricia Rive, she was also in Demolition Man. I guess these two women work as a team! In Ms. Rive's case, however, her Demo Man appearance as "police officer" was the highlight of her career, and she has not been seen on screen since her topless scene in The Zone.


As it is, you'll have a hard time finding a DVD even if you're curious about The Zone. It was never issued on Region 1 DVD. The link to the left leads to VHS info. It is long out-of-print, but you can find cheap copies from sellers on Amazon's Marketplace.

As for DVD, I watched a featureless Region 4 copy from Australia, and Amazon UK indicates that they have a region-free PAL version available for six quid.

(TECHNICAL NOTE: if you live in North America, you can play a region-free PAL DVD with no problem on your computer's built-in DVD drive. You will not be able to play it on a stand-alone DVD player with a North American TV. Your DVD player will have no problem with it and will think it is doing fine, but your TV will not render a picture unless you have adapted your system for PAL/NTSC conversion.)


Lara Harris - breasts and buns

Patricia Rive - brief breasts

The Critics Vote ...

  • No major reviews online

The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C-. To be honest, this flick is not altogether awful, but it has been assembled completely by the numbers. Every moment of the film is derivative of some earlier, better film. It has the usual plot, the usual characters, the usual action scenes, and the usual dialogue, all assembled with less than the usual amount of money.

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