There’s something deafening and reckless and hotdogging about Drop Zone, and I mean that as a compliment. This macho action fantasy from subculture specialist John Badham (Saturday Night Fever, WarGames) is set in the daredevil society of sky divers, where Pete Nessip (Wesley Snipes), an unlikely federal marshal who is the last man around you’d expect to see pulling a rip cord, throws in with a band of professional plane leapers based in swampy Florida. His mission: to track down the gang of parachute-proficient bad guys who have staged a prison break on a commercial 747, kidnapping a valuable convicted computer hacker, Earl Leedy (Evening Shade’s Michael Jeter), and killing Nessip’s brother and fellow fed, Terry (The Cosby Show’s Malcolm-Jamal Warner), in the process. To thwart their nasty scheme (they’ve targeted the Drug Enforcement Agency Building in Washington, D.C., as a drop zone, i.e., a place to land, and they’re using Leedy to infiltrate DEA computers), Nessip’s got to learn how to leap too. For lessons, he turns to Jessie Crossman (Hard Target’s Yancy Butler).
Crossman is a comic-book supergirl — the toughest, buffest, hair-flingingest chick who’s ever put on a Spandex flight suit. Jeter’s Leedy fusses and whines, the nerdiest of geniuses. (Big stretch, no?) Gary Busey snarls and terrorizes — big stretch, no? — as leader of the baddies. And Snipes, the action man from — Passenger 57 and Demolition Man, plays his part with eyes always ready to go funny-ironic even when his mouth is saying tough things. And why shouldn’t he wink? Badham, who can work taut, as in Point of No Return, or broad, as in Stakeout, takes a big, fast, loud approach here: The skydiving sequences themselves are thrilling, while the on-the-ground episodes tend to flop and stumble. (It is my personal theory that you’ve got to be deeply nuts to enjoy jumping out of a plane at 15,000 feet, but I’ll defend to the death my right to get off on watching somebody else do it.)
Drop Zone wafts on currents of a prevailing popular taste for mindless motion. As a result, you feel giddy — provided you don’t look down. ”Speed”?, Badham seems to taunt, boastfully. Hey, kids, if you liked the adrenaline rush of Speed, see what a free fall from a plane traveling at 200 miles an hour does for ya! Now jump, sucker! Wheee. B-