If you’re willing to overlook a pointless story and sludgy pacing, you might be able to enjoy some of the surface pleasures in High Velocity, an action thriller shot in the Philippines. Leading man Ben Gazzara and costar Paul Winfield strike up decent male-bonding chemistry during their scenes together as mercenaries on a dangerous mission, and Kennan Wynn conjures a passable degree of intensity playing the obnoxious American businessman whom the missionaries strive to rescue from a jungle hideout. Also contributing more than the movie deserves is composer Jerry Goldsmith, whose incredibly prolific output (he scored five other pictures the same year, including Logan’s Run and The Omen) rarely diminished the quality of his work. Among the major players who fail to impress, Britt Ekland adds nothing to a small role as the wife of Wynn’s character, and director Remi Kramer—well, this was his first and last feature film, so that tells you what you need to know about the caliber of the storytelling. Nonetheless, High Velocity contains an adequate number of action scenes, so every so often the movie rises from its stupor to deliver a fleeting thrill.
Set in some unnamed corner of the Far East, the picture begins by introducing Andersen (Wynn), a blustery executive who treats his local help terribly and isn’t much kinder to his beautiful trophy wife (Ekland). Militia types kidnap Andersen, so the wife hires Vietnam veteran Baumgartner (Gazzara) to plan a rescue operation. He, in turn, solicits the assistance of former comrade-in-arms Watson (Winfield). Various double-crosses ensue, as does a long trek into remote terrain. Sadly, much of the picture comprises dull scenes of the mercenaries staking out the guerilla’s camp. More lively are bits featuring Andersen in captivity, because his kidnappers force the Ugly American to confront the effects of his company’s imperialism. Excepting the friendship between the two mercenaries, nothing in this picture pings emotionally, and the narrative valleys outnumber the peaks. There’s also the little matter of how the plot doesn’t end up making all that much sense once everything is resolved. Yet somehow the combination of skilled actors in three leading roles and a steady stream of zesty cues from Goldsmith keeps High Velocity borderline watchable.
High Velocity: FUNKY