STUDIO: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
MSRP: $24.96
RUNNING TIME: 165 Minutes

The Pitch

"It’s The Stand meets Rainbow Six!"

The Humans

Stephen Dorff (Blade), Mira Sorvino (Mighty Aphrodite), Sophia Myles (Tristan and Isolde), Blair Underwood (Rules of Engagement).

The Nutshell

Poor John Smith. He’s got such a common name, people are always mistaking him for other John Smiths. That, and he has been gifted with the task of chasing down whatever terrorist group is responsible for releasing a US-designed super-virus, while dealing with the death of his wife and corruption in the Covert One organization. That and the name thing.

"You can be my ugly friend."

The Lowdown

So, how about that Bourne Identity? Good movie, good movie. Did it do enough for the name of Robert Ludlum to turn him into an honest-to-gods franchise starter? I don’t think so. Ludlum’s not as much of a spotlight hugger as Tom Clancy or Dan Brown are. (I can only imagine it won’t be long before we get scads of crap-fiction with "Dan Brown Presents" above the title.) What that assures, right off the bat, is that Covert One: The Hades Factor lacks the identity of the Bourne movies. Ludlum’s name doesn’t carry enough weight in the filmed entertainment world, and Stephen Dorff is no Matt Damon.

Though the marketing content surrounding Covert One would have you draw an immediate parallel to Bourne, right down to the cover art, the writers (Elwood Reid doing a teleplay off of the novel by Ludlum and Gayle Lynds) start off with an immediate break from expectation. Instead of going the route of cramped, panic-stricken thriller, they made Covert One as close to a conspiracy epic as they could. Of course, that means that there has to be a world-spanning crisis for our heroes to square off against. Bioterrorism gets to be the villain for this piece. Well, them and Arabs.

"Hang on. My tumor’s acting up."

It’s entirely possible to sustain a good and personal story within a worldwide scope, but you’re not going to find that in Covert One. The characterizations are a laughable collision of archetypes, which is pushed closer to being intolerable thanks to a lack of motivation for any of them. Though the show runs for more than two-and-a-half hours, the end seems to come too quickly, and cut off too abruptly, in terms of character arcs.

There’s the conspiracy, of course, to provide entertainment. It’s not a bad one, up until you get the answers (and barring the incredibly lame, hyper-CSI computer hacking.) The story is full of double- and treble-agents, murder plots, assassinations, and rogue soldiers, as well as terrorists and their destructive plans. (Ever feel sympathy for the villains? The jihadist cult here gets at least one good foot up the ass of the ol’ US of A.) The resolution of all the intrigue is, unfortunately, a grand let-down. It’s one of those times when the mystery is compelling enough to sustain the film while it’s going on, but learning the answers robs the audience of repeat viewings, since it makes so much of what preceded irrelevant and/or inane.

Zoom in. Enhance. Zoom in. Enhance.

The writing is sub-par across the board, from the dialogue to the plotting. And I’m not sure exactly what they were thinking when they included obvious hints at a sequel, but it was executed with such hamfists that the film leaves you with your eyes a-rolling. Imagine the end of Red Dragon, with all the hinting about Dolarhyde’s return, but learning that he, in fact, died in the fire.

There is a worthy story in here somewhere, but not enough effort was put into giving the secrets a satisfying unraveling. The characters accomplish some great things, but not enough effort was put into fleshing out their stiff designs. And, damn it, not enough effort was made in the creation of the cover art.

The Package

There was a section here, but it’s gone now.

I mean, the disc is blank but for the feature and English subtitles for the hard-of-hearing, the lazy, or the telemarketer.

5.7 out of 10