A few years ago, couch potatoes couldn’t flip channels without coming across a made-for-television disaster movie, whether it be about tornado or avalanche or flood or asteroid — or even lots of these together in a storm of the century. Just when it looked like it was safe for audiences to put away the all-weather gear, TBS has come up with a twist: New Orleans, during Mardi Gras, besieged by a giant sinkhole. Connect the dots and the Superstation has a serviceable genre pic, albeit one where the pseudo-thrills are noticeably low-budget.
Geologist Matt Andrews (John Corbett), has never been the same since he failed to stop a mining accident years ago. Now he’s overly cautious about everything, including his relationship with long-time girlfriend and mayoral confidant Allison (Jessica Steen), who wishes Matt would realize the accident wasn’t his fault and then ask her to marry him. Just as everyone is arriving in town for Mardi Gras festivities, a city worker is killed when an underground tunnel caves in.
Matt soon determines that the entire downtown of New Orleans is in danger of collapse, and heatedly advises that Mardi Gras be called off. Given his rep for cautiousness, nobody, including Allison, believes him, and she decides to suggest to the mayor that the parade go ahead.
From that point on, it’s all foreboding music from composers Asher Ettinger and Tony Kosinec, and crowd shots (a few of which were taken at Mardi Gras itself) as we wait for the inevitable moment when the ground gives way. Allison has a visiting teenage niece (“Dawson Creek’s” Brittany Daniel) who’s naturally put in harm’s way, with an attractive boy.
Once the ground starts sinking, it’s up to Matt to save the day, putting himself in terrible danger as he does. Brian Ross’ teleplay hits all the right notes, even if the chords sound numbingly familiar.
Director Mario Azzopardi would have been well-advised to compensate for the lack of spectacular visuals with a bit more humor. Everything in “On Hostile Ground” tends to be taken a bit too seriously, especially since the filmmakers don’t have the budget to come close to re-creating Mardi Gras, let alone Mardi Gras manque. The disaster scenes look almost pathetically cheap.