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Sahara is one of those action adventure flicks that gleefully shimmies along the line of absurdity, before willingly pushing itself over the edge so it can plummet to the earth and splat into an uncomfortable mishmash of intestines, blood, and leftovers. Notice I didn’t say brains in that last line. “Brains” was deliberately left out, because this film had none.
Originally greeting the masses in book form as one of the many adventures of Dirk Pitt—created and penned by well-known author and sea lover Clive Cussler—the film seems to be so far off the mark that even Cussler is pissed enough to file a lawsuit against the filmmakers. Apparently Cussler was adamant about having script approval when he agreed to option the property. Not only did he not get script approval, though, he was essentially cut out of the loop entirely.
I say all this not because I care about Cussler or his book, but because it just serves as another shining example of how ruthlessly evil Hollywood can be. It doesn’t matter who you are, or what you’ve done; they’re not afraid to screw you up the ass in Tinseltown.
Apparently, Dirk Pitt (Matthew McConaughey) is this deep sea diving hero guy. He goes on wacky adventures with his best pal, Al (Steve Zahn) whom he’s known since childhood. Their boss is a fellow named Admiral Sandecker (William H. Macy) who winces every time Dirk gets a bright idea. So, you’ve got your vapid hero, dumb-shit sidekick, and paranoid father figure—yep, sounds like they at least kept the formula intact.
While trolling about off the coast of Africa, Dirk catches wind of a lead on this boat he’s been searching for. Lost during the Civil War, this is a confederate ironclad boat called the Texas. Before we know it, Dirk has hornswoggled his boss out of his boat, and taken his sidekick, Al (Steve Zahn) with him to Mali—the place where his lead leads him.
Along the way, he meets and picks up Eva Rojas (Penelope Cruz), a doctor involved in her own little plot. Something to do with a potential outbreak that covers the body with lesions and makes eyeballs look like discolored marbles. Apparently this outbreak is coming from Mali too, so it only “makes sense” that Dirk and Eva should journey together. I, however, believe the real reason they were destined to journey together was because they are unquestionably the two most beautiful people in Africa (at that time), and as we all know, beauty is a magnet for beauty.
It is about the time when our beautiful people make it to Mali that all reason and rational abruptly stands from the table, and bolts for the door, leaving us with the check, and a lot of unfinished food left to devour. Not the good food you’re likely to get at Denny’s mind you, but rather stacks upon stacks of Big Macs and heavily salted fries. Y’know, the kind of food that is sure to you’re your body into something of a toxic waste dump…which is a wild coincidence, because there is a toxic waste dump in Sahara, too! There’s also a boat chase that ends in something called a “Panama” which unfortunately was not accompanied by the classic Van Halen tune of the same name—I found this particularly strange, considering they managed to nab every other decent classic rock tune for the film’s soundtrack.
Guns are shot, but there is no blood. Boats explode, but there are no corpses. Toxic waste is everywhere, but there are no melting white dudes from Detroit to get hit by vans driven by robocops at which point the white dudes would then splatter across the windshield in a dazzling spectacle of what the human body can do when covered in the stuff. It’s sad man, just sad. At least Armageddon had strippers.
Oh, and there is a romance too, between our beautiful people, although you’d be hard pressed to find any real chemistry between them. And even if you could, probably have more fun listening to the bubbling chemistry going on in your gut from all that crap you just took in.
Sahara is a film that had a lot going for it at first, but not enough to warrant the money required to see it in the theater. So, unless you’re in the market for a big, dumb, toothless action movie, I’d suggest that you save your money for something better...like a llama.
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