It may not be so hard to understand why former studio powerhouse MGM are living a financial nightmare when you watch a film of theirs like Deadly Impact. The company's foray into the oversaturated market that is b-grade, Steven Seagal-type action thrillers with this just about watchable romp that lacks any bankable stars, is languid and generic. The title alone reeks of its seen-it-all-before nature, and that says a lot when it's been changed twice since production, originally called “Angelmaker” and then going on to be known as “To Live and Die”, a tie-in to the studio's '80s hit To Live and Die in LA. But perhaps Deadly Impact would lend itself better to the title of Speed 3, as the 1994 film was obviously a big influence on Alexander Vesha's writing.
It's not that it's poorly made – because it isn't – it's just devoid of flare and originality and has a script that I'd hardly picture the writer slaving over for inspiration. Director Robert Kurtzman, one of the founding members of the outstanding KNB EFX Group, has gone on record as saying that MGM bought the screenplay as soon as they read it, but I find that to be an extremely questionable decision as it's far from stellar. It's exactly what you'd expect from this kind of movie – it follows generic conventions down to a tee – but this kills it in the crib and keeps the film so restrained that it couldn't be anything but a forgettable two-star affair.
Flanery is Tom Armstrong, a CIA agent who loses his wife in a cruel, very personal predicament orchestrated by a criminal mastermind who goes by the alias “The Lion” (Pantoliano). Eight years later, Armstrong is retired and living in Mexico when he crosses paths with FBI agent Isabella Ordonez (Serano). The Lion, an explosives expert, is once again at large – demanding $100 million or the city of Albuquerque will be razed to the ground – and the Bureau need Armstrong to act as a consultant for the operation to stop the psychopath for good, since he's the only one alive who's ever gotten close to him before. What ensues is an explosive cat and mouse chase between Armstrong and The Lion as their grudge gets even more heated, if you'll excuse the pun.
With a decent enough performance by Flanery, Deadly Impact sits somewhere between good, clean fun and a waste of time, playing out like a sub-par episode from the latter seasons of 24, but if you're willing to shut down your brain for an hour and a half, you may just enjoy the film despite its formulaic and predictable storytelling – and probably thanks to just how wonderful Pantoliano is in his show-saving performance. Because it definitely won't be for Serano's more-wooden-than-a-plank acting.