Combustible Celluloid
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With: Cuba Gooding Jr., Skeet Ulrich, Peter Firth, David Paymer, Hudson Leick, Daniel Hugh Kelly, Kevin J. O'Connor, Judson Mills, Jordan Mott, Dwayne Macopson, Jim Grimshaw, Richard Todd Aguayo, K. Addison Young, James Van Harper, Tommy Smeltzer
Written by: Drew Gitlin, Mike Cheda
Directed by: Hugh Johnson
MPAA Rating: R for violence and language
Running Time: 102
Date: 08/30/1999

Chill Factor (1999)

1 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Ice Scream

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Chill Factor was probably greenlit on the basis of its core idea: a highly explosive device named Elvis must be transported safely to a lab before its temperature climbs above fifty degrees. Sound a little like Speed (1994)? Wait, it gets worse. It's only a matter of time before someone says, "Elvis has left the building."

In Chill Factor, coffee shop worker Tim Mason (Skeet Ulrich) and scientist Dr. Richard Long (David Paymer) are fishing buddies. When Long, who invented the explosive, gets fatally shot over his invention, he gives it to Mason for safekeeping. Fortunately, an ice-cream delivery man, Arlo (Cuba Gooding Jr.), with a refrigerated truck is on hand. This pair of amateurs takes off on a cross-country trip with the frozen bomb. And hot on their trail are a bunch of bad guys who want to sell the bomb on the international market.

Chill Factor isn't even going for thirty seconds before we get our first line of expositional dialogue (unrealistic dialogue that exists only to explain important plot points) and clich├ęd characters. Each and every action scene is stolen from some other movie. A boat sliding down a mountainside into a river is stolen from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) for starters. A scene with Gooding climbing around a moving truck and fighting off a bad guy is straight from Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). And other scenes are lifted from The Rock (1996), which I have no love for, but would much rather have seen again than sitting through Chill Factor.

I can only imagine how many other actors must have turned this script down before it got to the likes of Skeet Ulrich, whose scruffy good looks don't get him by here like they did in As Good as It Gets (1997). I have to wonder though why Gooding thought this insulting role would be worth his time. Even so, with the possible exception of the battered ice cream truck named Ol' Pete, which wins the award for the most interesting character, Gooding brings the most life to this movie.

Finally, Chill Factor is much gorier than it needs to be. We get melting faces, searing flesh, bloody stumps, and sliced jugulars. Speed didn't need any of that stuff to keep our hearts pounding, and all the movies this film steals from are a better time at the cinema.

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