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Paramount Studios presents
Daybreak (2000)

Savanna: Who are you?
Dillon: It's O.K. I work for the C.T.A.

- Ursula Brooks, Ted McGinley

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: September 20, 2001

Stars: Ted McGinley, Roy Scheider, Ursula Brooks, Ken Olandt
Other Stars: Jaime Bergman, Adam Wylie, Mark Kiely, Julie Brown, Allison Dunbar
Director: Jean Pellerin

MPAA Rating: R for language
Run Time: 01h:33m:35s
Release Date: August 21, 2001
UPC: 097368787940
Genre: action

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C- C-D+B D+

DVD Review

It was with great trepidation that I hunkered down to view Daybreak, which appeared at first to be nothing more than an outright rip off of Sly Stallone's 1996 Daylight release. As I peeled the shrink wrap of the case, I wondered silently to myself if Hollywood ever bothers to steal from good films anymore. Aside from the alarmingly similar titles, both films feature a ragtag group of people trapped in a tunnel, working their way to freedom after some type of disaster. In Daylight, Stallone was a disgraced ex-chief of Emergency Medical Services trying to rescue people from an underground tunnel connecting Manhattan and New Jersey. Daybreak inserts Ted McGinley as a disgraced former hockey star turned City Transit Authority maintenance scheduler trying to rescue people from an underground subway tunnel in Los Angeles after an earthquake. Both films feature toxic waste, a cast of clichéd stereotypes, and very little suspense.

I imagine a lot of readers arched a suspicious eyebrow when the name of Ted McGinley popped up. McGinley? An action hero? Wasn't he the hunky, giant-toothed blond photographer during the waning years of The Love Boat? Wasn't he also in the death knell years of Happy Days? Wasn't he also in the agonizing later years of Married With Children? It would seem that poor McGinley has had the misfortune of being a prime suspect in the decline of western sit-com civilization, at the very least. I know it wasn't really his fault, but if I was at the scene of that many stiffs, the authorities would be casting curious glances at me, as well. So here comes Daybreak, and I'm supposed to accept Mr. McGinley as an action hero?

The years have been kind to McGinley, and he has gravitated toward a sort of William Devane look. Well, more of a younger, buffer William Devane. The blond locks have been buzzed off and returned to an apparently more natural dark color. I hate to admit it, but he carries off the look of a low-budget accidental action hero pretty well here, and he actually comes across likeable. That seemingly startling realization had me shaking my head a lot during the film.

Director Jean (Laserhawk) Pellerin's Daybreak tries really hard to be exciting, but it never quite succeeds. After a late-night earthquake traps four subway passengers deep in an underground tunnel, it's up to Dillon (McGinley) to lead them to safety after he stumbles upon them while investigating the damage. A predictable series of explosions and cave-ins prevent the group from going back, so the only way to go is forward, deeper into the subway system.

To make matters more complex, the oily Deputy Mayor (Ken Olandt) has been hiding toxic waste barrels in a secret storage room near the damaged tunnels, and he is under strict orders from what are apparently mobsters to make certain no one finds out about their secret dumping ground. So as Dillon's boss, Stan (Roy Scheider), attempts a rescue operation, the Deputy Mayor has other, more devious plans in mind.

The "seen 'em before" cast of characters include brainy teen Newton (Adam Wylie), loutish ex-con Griffin (Mark Kiely), busty blonde Suzy (Jaime Bergman), and recovering rape victim Savanna (Ursula Brooks). As expected, nerdy Newton offers up a wealth of helpful info, such as sticking a metal garbage can over Dillon to attract electricity from a series of sparking cables ("It's a Farraday box!"). Ex-con Griffin is a real caveman, and I was counting the minutes until what I hoped would be an imminent death scene. Hubba-hubba Suzy, with her TIGHT top and tiny leopard skirt, serves as the film's requisite eye candy. Savanna, the rightfully angry rape victim, slowly becomes Dillon's love interest, despite her uncanny ability to Krazy Glue® what appeared to be a gaping 10-inch wound on one of her fellow passengers.

Roy Scheider looks very tired in Daybreak, and his role as concerned supervisor Stan seems to consist solely of frantically examining blueprints and speaking into a walkie-talkie that he holds about three feet away from his mouth at all times. Scheider is generally one cool hombre, so I am willing to chalk up his role here as strictly a business deal. Read some lines. Get some cash. Nothing more. Nothing less.

When all is said and done, Daybreak seems to borrow liberally from Daylight, Poseidon Adventure, Towering Inferno, Earthquake, and just about any other genre flick you can imagine. Some of the effects in the subway tunnels are decent, specifically when the train is trapped during the initial quake. However, suspense is pretty much nonexistent, and that is the biggest downfall. McGinley is more than adequate, but everyone else, with the possible exception of Ursula Brooks, suffer from bad-actingitis.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: Daybreak is presented in a 1.33:1 nonanamorphic full-frame transfer. Overall, this a dark, dark print with black levels that contain little or no depth or contrast. It's simply black, and that makes it very difficult to decipher the action at times. Flesh tones fluctuate constantly, and in general appear predominantly red. There are more nicks and scratches present than I would have expected on a film of such recent lineage. Too bad.

Paramount has to take a hit on the weak image transfer here.

Image Transfer Grade: D+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Paramount has blessed Daybreak with a very strong 5.1 mix. The score fills all channels, including the rears, and it really makes the overall viewing experience much fuller and encompassing. Spatial imaging is excellent, and also incorporates the use of the rear channels for ambient sound. The dialogue is never washed out by the score, and it is always anchored up front.

In contrast, a rather flat and listless 2.0 English mix is also provided. As would be expected, the 2.0 mix is drastically less dramatic, and the full sound so prevalent in the 5.1 mix is sadly lacking here. Often with low-budget DVD releases, the difference between a 5.1 and 2.0 is negligible. Daybreak breaks that rule, and shows how an effectively mastered audio track can improve a film.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Stills Gallery
Extras Review: Paramount has skimped on supplementals for Daybreak. Ten blurry, oval framed stills, a theatrical trailer, and quickie bios on the cast are all that's available. Rumors of an alledged Daybreak commentary track from director Jean Pellerin and actress Ursula Brooks were apparently unfounded, and I can't imagine Paramount foisting a "Special Edition" of this title on the public anytime soon.

Chapter selections are limited to 16, and subtitles are in English and Spanish.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

Daybreak is just not good. It looks nice, at times. The 5.1 mix sounds terrific. In the end, though, everything seemed VERY familiar. Too familiar. It was as if I had seen it all before somewhere else. Guess what? I have.


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