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Monday, October 8, 2012

Category 6: Days of Destruction (2004)

With the advances in computer software that allow even the cheapest effects houses to churn out scenes of incredible, if not totaling convincing, mass destruction the boom in made for TV disaster movies has really escalated over the years. Category 6: Day of Destruction is prime example of one of these and it tosses the viewers a roster of B list actors and has been veterans into pretty much paint-by-number scripts in cacophony of CGI destruction, but the thing is if it is viewed in the right light and with proper expectations these films can still be a lot of fun.
This film starts off with a God giving sin city the finger as Las Vegas is torn apart by tornadoes that completely caught the people at the Severe Weather Center off guard. Running the show at the SWS is Andy Goodman (Brian Dennehy) a weather man who praises his guts and instinct over doppler radar, and is legendary in the field (I had no weathermen had heroes). Upon seeing the way the weather is going lately he isn’t all that upset that he’s being put out to pasture. He is of course being replaced by a smarmy jerk who doesn’t think instinct and hunches have any place in weather forecasting. Meanwhile Mitch Benson (Dharma and Greg's Thomas Gibson) is trying to keep the lights on in Chicago at Greater Midwest Electric during a record breaking heat wave, but is a bit distracted as he is having an affair with Rebecca Kerns (Chandra West) a public relations head working for the evil energy company Lexer Corp (I’m assuming the name of the company is suppose to make us think of Smallville's Lex Corp) whose practices of cutting corners makes them especially vulnerable to hackers. Reporter Amy Harkin (Nancy McKeon Fact's of Life) tired of puff pieces her boss keeps sticking her with finds a whistleblower, but is it too late? Secretary of Energy Shirley Abbott (Dianne Wiest) declares that America is a first world super power with a third world energy network and if things aren’t upgraded soon it could lead to…wait for it…DISASTER! Rounding off the cast of characters is Amy’s brother who flies for the U.S. Air Force Weather Hunters and his pregnant wife, but the gem in this ensemble is Tornado Tommy (Randy Quaid) who is a storm chaser par excel lance, and who will get you closer to a twister than you’d really rather be.

A massive hurricane rips through the Gulf of Mexico destroying everything in its path which of course enrages Goodman because none of his people saw it coming...again, “And now people are dead! From now on if a dog farts in Duluth I want somebody in this office to know about it.” Then a huge lightning storm destroys the generators that keep Chicago lit so Lexer Corp steps in to save the day, but pushes their plants beyond safety regulations and ends up polluting the waters, but of course they claim it was an accident (psst It’s cause they’re evil).

Goodman and his cute young intern discuss concerns that the arctic front pushing down towards them fueled by the polar jet stream is going to collide with the storm coming up from the Gulf being fueled by the tropical jet stream, and guess where they are going to meet? Yep, down town Chicago. Amy’s whistleblower gives her the scoop on the vulnerability of the Lexer Corp power system but her boss won’t run the story because he’s afraid of fighting such a big company (he must later get a job at Fox News). So the whistleblower decides the best way to show people how easily the system can be wrecked is to hack into it himself and shut down the power to the city. Of course he does this just as the two major storms are about to converge on the city and with no television or phone systems operating the people can’t be warned. Needless to say things go from bad to worse. Mitch Benson’s wife and rebellious daughter (are there any other kind in these films?) are trapped in the bank with the daughter’s gun wielding boyfriend, Amy’s pregnant sister-in-law gets stuck in, you guessed it that hoary old chest rears it’s ugly head, an elevator. To paraphrase Elmer Fudd, “North winds blow, south wind blow. Typhoons, Hurricanes… Earthquakes! CLICHÉS!!!”
A band of tornadoes (F-6 in scale) race up Tornado Alley taking out St. Louis and its landmark arch heading to join up with the category 6 hurricane coming down from the north and when they meet it will be as Goodman states, “Nagasaki and Hiroshima times fifty.” Our band of characters have a lot to contend with as the whistleblower futilely attempts to undue the damage he caused, while Mitch and Amy team-up to rescue his wife and daughter and the trapped sister-in-law.
The storm roars over the city as triple twisters take Tommy Tornado up into their loving embrace (he goes laughing so we don't feel bad), the evil head of Lexer is taken out by his exploding escape helicopter, and the Air Force Storm Hunters form a daring plan to fly into the eye of the storm to rescue their loved ones.

Now the visuals this movie provides for these storms consist of three elements; stock footage, CGI effects, and scenes from The Big One: The Great Los Angeles Earthquake and in some cases they are very effective but in others they come off really, really cheesy. We certainly didn’t get anything like the cover art implies of an F-10 tornado ripping through the heart of Chicago while a massive storm surge sweeps across the city, in fact the mentioned storm surge is never shown.

I can only recommend this film to die hard disaster buffs, and tell everyone else to just move along as their really isn’t anything to see here that hasn’t been done better elsewhere, but still there is worse...Category 7: The End of the World leaps to mind.

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