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Freefall

The creators of the romantic thriller "Freefall" don't dwell on relationships , but what the piece lacks in substance it makes up in action, entertaining audiences as it uses tried-and-true plot devices and great stunts.

With:
Cast: Eric Roberts, Jeff Fahey, Pamela Gidley, Ron Smerzcak, Warrick Grier, Leslie Fong, Lucky Shabangu, Anthony Fridjhon, James Whyle, Terri Norton, Patrick Bands, Todd Jenson, Ted Leplat, Jenny Steyn.

The creators of the romantic thriller “Freefall” don’t dwell on relationships , but what the piece lacks in substance it makes up in action, entertaining audiences as it uses tried-and-true plot devices and great stunts.

Wildlife photographer Katy Mazur (Pamela Gidley) is sent to Africa by her publisher and fiancee Dex Dellum (Jeff Fahey). She’s on the trail of the Taita Falcon, thought to be extinct, but there’s much more to the script than meets her camera’s eye.

She encounters daredevil mystery man Grant Orion (Eric Roberts), who likes to jump off waterfalls. He’s an ex-stuntman — a high man to be exact, a specialist in taking the riskiest plunges. After a night of wild sex, some of it taking place on Grant’s parachute, Katy is mysteriously drugged.

Katy becomes an unwitting courier after a creepy albino plants a list of international assassins on her. Grant appears to be in on it and Katy finds herself torn between the safeness of Dex and Grant’s on-the-edge lifestyle.

The script, by producers David Zito and Les Weldon, includes some cliches and facile juxtapositions (e.g., equating Grant with the falcon and a predatory leopard). The contrast between Dex’s urbanity and Grant’s passion is just a decoy, however.

The story relies on one good twist and that’s enough. If viewers can get through the first 15 minutes, which have no flow thanks to some jerky editing, they’ll be involved. Once the vidpic leaves Africa, things pick up considerably.

Roberts is just right, but Fahey and Gidley have the more demanding roles. Fahey is outstanding as the character who turns out to be a witch doctor, among other things; it’s such a good performance you end up sympathizing with the character.

Gidley is too stilted to sustain the first quarter of the movie and she’s unconvincing as a photographer; her strength is the action scenes.

What the ambitious production lacks in style and atmosphere, it makes up for in action sequences and well executed violence, under John Irvin’s sharp direction.

The producers got their money’s worth at the African and South American locations with Yossi Wein’s lingering aerial photography. In contrast, the “soaring” music by Lee Holdridge detracts.

The excellent stunts are coordinated by Paul Siebert. There are no fewer than four major falls, complete with flailing arms and realistic, Doppler-effect screams.

“Freefall” is a reminder watching people fall from great heights is never boring.

Freefall

(Thurs.(22), 9-11 p.m., USA)

Production: Filmed in South Africa, London and Venezuela by Nu World Prods. Executive producers, Avi Lerner, Joanna Plafsky, Trevor Short; producers-writers, David Zito, Les Weldon; line producer, Danny Lerner; director, John Irvin.

Crew: Camera, Yossi Wein; supervising editor, Graham Walker; production designer, John Rosewarne; sound, Colin McFarlane; music, Lee Holdridge.

Cast: Cast: Eric Roberts, Jeff Fahey, Pamela Gidley, Ron Smerzcak, Warrick Grier, Leslie Fong, Lucky Shabangu, Anthony Fridjhon, James Whyle, Terri Norton, Patrick Bands, Todd Jenson, Ted Leplat, Jenny Steyn.

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