Sylvester Stallone, Amy Brenneman, Viggo Mortensen, Dan Hedaya, Jay O. Sanders, Karen Young, Claire Bloom, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Renoly Santiago, Colin Fox, Danielle Harris, Trina McGee-Davis, Marcello Thedford, Sage Stallone, Jo Anderson, Mark Rolston
After Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky and Rambo franchises began to peter out, he briefly delved into comedy before finding more success as an ersatz action star in the mid-1990s. One of his final roles that managed some box office clout was in Daylight, a derivative disaster flick that has few actual thrills.
Stallone plays a former EMS chief who courageously enters a collapsing New York City highway tunnel so he can rescue the survivors inside. TV actress Amy Brenneman (NYPD Blue and later Judging Amy) plays his chief love interest, a struggling playwright. Character actor Dan Hedaya was the most prominent actor in the supporting cast at that time, though Viggo Mortensen, seven years before hitting the big time with The Lord of the Rings trilogy, also has a minor role.
The explosive setup to the film includes a conscience-deprived waste management company hauling barrels of toxic waste into the tunnel, which is ignited by a crash involving a speeding gang of jewelry store robbers trying to escape the crash. Most of the people unluckily stuck in the tunnel when it explodes are killed outright leaving a small, manageable number of potential victims waiting for their savior.
The resemblances to The Poseidon Adventure are many, down to the requisite underwater swimming scenes, the explosive destruction, and the slow, incremental body count. Television director Rob Cohen’s third feature film of the 1990s cannot find a rhythm that delivers true excitement. Every death is expected and every tragedy is predictably staged. This is the perfect example of a paint-by-numbers feature that borrows heavily from everything that’s gone before it without infusing the narrative, dialogue, characters, or situations with any measure of originality.
Stallone works his magic as only he can. He’s neither accomplished, nor embarrassing, which helps keep the film from feeling overwhelmingly awful. Instead, it’s just a bland, rote excursion into generic theatrics. The remaining actors are set up with lengthy introductions that aren’t particularly memorable. Each character lacks distinctiveness or personality, making their eventual deaths less concerning. It also makes Brenneman, Mortensen, Hedaya, and everyone else’s jobs harder in creating believable figures worth remembering.
The musical score is overwrought and tedious while the closing credits song is a carbon copy of every forgettable 1980s film ballad. Daylight ends precisely when it expects to and not before or after. The timing is almost admirably precise, the best that can be said about the film as a whole.
July 26, 2021