Tactical Assault Reviews


By: Jeff Bond

Its poster artwork makes TACTICAL ASSAULT look like another one of the innumerable TOP GUN/Tom Clancy-style fighter jet thrillers available on home video, but the movie is actually a fighter jet movie crossed with a psychotic stalker movie. This is fortunate since actor Rutger Hauer is slightly more believable as a psychotic stalker than he is as a military fighter pilot.

Hauer and Robert Patrick (late of TERMINATOR 2 and currently seen on THE X-FILES) play fighter aces who get involved in a deadly shootout in the Iraqi no-fly zone in 1990. The incident leaves Hauer’s character Holiday (known as “Doc”) a wreck, but after six years in an Iraqi prison he returns to active duty and a hero’s welcome. However, both he and Patrick (as Colonel Lee Banning) are sharing a terrible secret about the incident. It seems that Doc was hot to shoot down a civilian Iraqi airliner, and during numerous flashback scenes we see this scenario played out in greater detail. Now the two men are assigned to escort duty in Kosovo, but as Banning discovers, his old buddy Doc blames him for his imprisonment and the destruction of his career. And now it’s payback time!

TACTICAL ASSAULT suffers from the usual pitfalls of low-budget movies which attempt to put large-scale military operations on screen: stock footage causes aircraft types to alter in mid-flight and air-to-ground missile attacks always result in unimpressive-looking gasoline explosions instead of the horrendous devastation modern weaponry actually causes. However, the movie’s biggest credibility problems occur any time Rutger Hauer is onscreen. Hauer became a legend due to his work in some of Paul Verhoeven’s early films like SOLDIER OF ORANGE and FLESH + BLOOD, and particularly due to his mesmerizing role as Roy Batty in Ridley Scott’s BLADE RUNNER. Since then, however, he’s been trapped in low-budget hell, possibly due to his inability to turn down a high-fat meal.

Yes, Hauer is kind of a whale these days, and he makes for the largest fighter pilot since Porkins was stuffed into the cockpit of an X-Wing in STAR WARS. You keep wondering how his F-16 can make it off the runway, let alone engage in acrobatic manoeuvres at twice the speed of sound. In order to conceal his corpulence, Hauer walks through the movie wearing giant overcoats or with his shirt un-tucked, as well as a mane of thick, unkempt hair that’s about four times the regulation length for a military man. However, none of this gets him in trouble with his superiors, leaving him free to wage a campaign of terror against his old pal Colonel Banning.

Banning has a put-upon, pregnant wife (Isabel Glasser), and before you can say FATAL ATTRACTION “Doc” is posing as her Doctor and generally making her life a living hell. This leads to a showdown between Banning and Doc in which Hauer winds up dangled from a balcony with the hundred-pounds-lighter Patrick supposedly holding onto him with one hand. Everything seemingly leads to a final battle in which Hauer and Patrick fight on the back of a jeep while Banning’s wife drives the tiny vehicle to a nearby military base, where Doc commandeers an unused battle tank and Banning manages to grab a handy TOW missile launcher. Frankly, my 10-speed bike was under better security when I was 13 than this military base has to offer.

It doesn’t take a genius to predict that TACTICAL ASSAULT will end in the air, since that’s where the film’s titular plot device originated. Despite a few stock footage snafus the aerial combat footage is generally well-edited and the few CGI aircraft effects are surprisingly good, particularly a climactic river crash. The acting is strictly of the phone-it-in variety, and Hauer’s performance is particularly sabotaged by an American accent. Patrick and Glasser barely pass muster, although Ken Howard (THE WHITE SHADOW) is solid as the pilots’ commanding officer. If you have a desperate need to see fighter jets locking on their missiles and Rutger Hauer taunting Robert Patrick, TACTICAL ASSAULT should fill the bill.


"Tactical Assault" (1998)

As a conventional movie, this is truly awful: a thin and utterly implausible plot, a dire script and indifferent acting. It features the revenge of a US pilot, shot down over Iraq by his commander, when he somehow reappears six years later and is assigned back to duty on his former commander's base. If the USAF admitted psychopaths like this to fly military jets, the world would be in even more trouble than it already is. The mystery is how they persuaded (a paunchy) Rutger Hauer ("Blade Runner") and Robert Patrick ("Terminator 2") to appear in such rubbish (money, I guess).

On the other hand, as an aviation film, this work does sport a fair amount of action cinematography of a wide range of military flyware: AWACS, combat helicopters (Mi-17 HIP and Mi-24 HIND), and fighter jets (F-4 Phantom, F-16 Falcon, MiG-29 and L-39) in bewildering markings. In fact, there are so many clips of different aircraft that the continuity goes totally awry. Then, if (like me) you've ever been to Budapest, you'll enjoy the location shooting in the Hungarian capital.