The action flick Chill Factor (Warner Bros.) abounds with rescues. First, Tim Mason (Skeet Ulrich, As Good As It Gets) and Arlo (Cuba Gooding Jr., Jerry Maguire) save 300 million people across the northwest from a chemical weapon. Thirty people trapped in a tunnel are saved by a case of beer. And, ultimately, the movie itself is saved from a fate worse than Speed 2 by the performances of Ulrich and Gooding Jr.
The plot, characterization and screenwriting of the movie are so stereotypical that they border on comical. The movie opens the way all movies involving two regular guys thrown into a situation in which they need to save the world begins – on a tropical island where a classified government research team is testing the next doomsday device.
Of course, the compound could eradicate humanity, and it has a cool nickname. In Chill Factor, the compound is called Elvis. Innocent troops die, and the man in charge, Commander Brenner, played by the perpetual bad-guy Peter Firth (Amistad), is sent to military prison, where he cultivates a hatred for the government.
Ten years later, we discover Dr. Richard Long (David Paymer, Payback), the scientist who created Elvis, fishing in Montana with Mason. Brenner is out of prison, and with a group of high-tech, must-wear-black mercenaries, he attempts to hijack Elvis from the military installation that Long works for.
Although Long escapes with Elvis, he is fatally wounded and must pass the weapon into the hands of Mason. Long’s death is drawn out and almost insulting, as he unrealistically coughs out his last words. The death scene had members of the audience laughing. From here, Mason and Arlo take Arlo’s ice cream truck to keep the compound cool on their way to Fort Magruder.
The chemistry between Ulrich and Gooding Jr. make this movie worth seeing. Ulrich, always serious and contemplating what to do next, is the perfect counter to the eccentric and hilarious Gooding Jr. Throughout the film, Gooding Jr. turns bad writing into good comedy.
Many explosions, chase scenes, and near misses follow. If it weren’t for movie-goers caring about the well-being of Mason and Arlo, the action sequences would force audience members to feel indifferent about the outcome of Chill Factor. The other characters are so stock and stereotypical that nobody would care what happens to them. The tension builds around the many near-deaths of Mason and Arlo and culminates in a rewarding, yet predictable, ending.