Into the Storm

         
0 1.5 out of 5 stars
Director:
Steve Quale
Starring: Richard Armitage, Matt Walsh, Sarah Wayne Callies, Max Deacon, Nathan Kress, Alycia Debnam-Carey
Screenwriter(s):
John Swetnam
Duration: 89 minutes
Release Date:
August 8, 2014
MPAA Rating:
PG-13

The stakes are so low in Into the Storm, even the douchebags are safe.

The d-bags in question are Donk (Kyle Davis) and Reevis (Jon Reep), two “amateur daredevils” who fancy themselves backwoods Jackass acolytes. Really, they're just a couple of inbred knuckleheads. Donk and Reevis ride four-wheelers into swimming pools, knock back Pabst cans like they’re Capri Sun pouches, and, for plot convenience's sake, have secret ambitions to become storm-chasers. Their beat-up hatchback of a Jeep has a sign on the back that reads “Twista Hunterz"; when abnormally large tornadoes sweep into their hometown, Donk and Reevis get as close to the windy cyclones as possible. You watch Donk hoot, howl, and lift into the air through the point-of-view of Reevis' camera, which also spins around to simulate the tornado's impact. The only thing that's missing is a Steve-O intro: "Hi, I'm Steve-O, and this is The Human Washing Machine!"

It’s not much of a spoiler to say that Donk and Reevis survive Into the Storm, because you won’t give a crap about who lives and dies in this hopped-up but anticlimactic Twister revision. With its hodgepodge of traditional narrative and various first-person POV perspectives, it’s not quite found-footage and not quite a straightforward disaster flick. Without a single character to care about, Into the Storm isn’t all that involving, either. It’s the kind of ill-advised romp where redneck stereotypes like Donk and Reevis are pitched as tobacco-spitting laugh riots but just make you almost feel bad for real-life numbskulls Johnny Knoxville and Bam Margera. They’ve earned the right to be considered morons—Donk and Reevis come from the mind of a screenwriter who probably doesn't think too highly of Jackass.

There’s a fun popcorn flick hiding somewhere inside Into the Storm. That better, less grating film pokes out whenever director Steven Quale gets to leave the characters behind and ramp up the destructive CGI weather patterns. Anyone who buys a ticket to see this wants to watch buildings, cars, and people fly across the screen, and Quale only occasionally delivers on that promise. When one of the movie’s anonymous, underwritten characters is pulled into a fiery tornado, his body wraps around the flaming cone like he’s fruit punch twirling through a twisty straw, and it’s legitimately harrowing. Similarly, the sight of massive airliners levitating into the sky has just enough undeniable awe to forgive Into the Storm’s marketing team for plastering that money-shot all over its trailer and commercials.

Besides, you really can't knock them for wholly selling Into the Storm's visual grandeur—the rest of the film is bankrupt. Like its weather-generated antagonists, Into the Storm doesn’t have a backbone. The body-count is Pixar small. The threat is nonexistent. You’re no less a storm watcher than the meteorologist (Sarah Wayne Callies, formerly The Walking Dead’s Lori Grimes) and stubborn weather documentarian (Veep’s Matt Walsh) who eventually buddy up with father-of-the-year Gary and his kids, except they’re (fictionally) getting paid for it. Into the Storm’s viewers, on the other hand, have paid to watch them and two Twista Hunterz only flirt with danger. At least Twister had the nerve to kill that cow.

Matt Barone is a Complex senior staff writer who, for the record, loves Jackass. He tweets here.