Matty takes a look at an important if underwhelming sci-fi action caper from Phillip J. Roth and the Unified Film Organization.
Chipping in for Digital Man (1995) aside, SyFy’s dealings with Phillip J. Roth and, later, the Unified Film Organization were on a picture by picture basis — until, at least, INTERCEPTOR FORCE.
Premiering on Saturday 12th February 2000, Interceptor Force garnered solid numbers and was, for a spell, the channel’s highest rated Original movie. As such, SyFy snapped up Roth and the UFO contingent on contract. They commissioned a sequel and a slew of other potboilers, and formed a fructiferous partnership with the shingle that endured deep into the 2010s.
Alas, despite its historical importance, Interceptor Force sits at the lower end of the Roth spectrum. Though peppered with the producer/director’s thematic obsessions — namely: identity and camaraderie — this clunky Predator (1987) riff suffers due to an uncharacteristic technical sloppiness and a curiously obnoxious script. Roth’s usual stylistic punch is conspicuous in its absence, and much of the film is stricken with cumbersome blocking and lackadaisical camerawork that does little to alleviate the Tarantino-lite posturing that spikes the tin-eared dialogue. Similarly frustrating is a half-baked subplot involving a swarm of Hispanic gangbangers populating the dusty border town where Olivier Gruner and his eponymous black ops crew go alien hunting.
On the plus side, the inclusion of the hideously stereotypical banditos increases Interceptor Force’s carnage count, when the murderous E.T. at the heart of the action goes wild during the film’s explosive final third. And while the specifics of its shapeshifting abilities change like the wind, said star-beast sports a great look wholly in step with the design work in Roth’s earlier robo-schlockers Prototype (1992) and A.P.E.X. (1994). True to UFO’s ethos, the snarling space monster is an entirely CGI creation (cf. Python (2000), Boa (2001), Dragon Fighter (2003) et al) which’ll be a sticking point for myopic practical FX fetishists. However, computer generated or not, the intergalactic menace is certainly more animated than Brad Dourif. Evidently cashing a cheque, the genre fav submits a somnambulistic performance as a smarmy government agent.
Also known as ‘Alien Interceptors’ and, incredibly, ‘Predator 3’ in certain international territories, Interceptor Force was released on video and DVD here in the U.K. as ‘The Last Line of Defense’ and did well enough to warrant distributor Third Millennium issuing a completely unrelated Gruner actioner, Extreme Honor (2001), on tape and disc as ‘The Last Line of Defense 2’. Consequently, when Third Millennium released Roth, UFO and Gruner’s actual Interceptor Force 2 (2002) in 2005, they did so under the name ‘They Have Returned’.
USA ● 1999 ● Sci-Fi, Action ● 87mins
Olivier Gruner, Brad Dourif, Ernie Hudson ● Dir. Phillip J. Roth (as ‘Phillip Roth’) ● Wri. Jim Christopher (as ‘Martin Lazarus’), story by Phillip J. Roth (as ‘Phillip Roth’)