TBS Action Flick Is No 'Rush'

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TBS Superstation set out to develop Die Hard
in a shopping mall as the premise for its yule-themed action thriller, Christmas Rush. Unfortunately, this gift package unravels, falling short in terms of characters and storyline.

Christmas Rush
doesn't capture the appeal of the original Die Hard (which also took place near the holiday) any more than the sequels in that franchise did.

Actors Dean Cain as Morgan, a suspended cop, and Eric Roberts as Scalzetti, an imaginative thief, do OK within the limited confines of their roles. But writer, director and co-executive producer Charles Robert Carner must shoulder most of the blame for this project's ultimate failure.

The opening segment sets the stage for Morgan's suspension, as a Chinatown official is wounded in a wild shootout between cops — led by Morgan — and an Asian gang trying to rob a local club.

Scalzetti, meanwhile, devises "the perfect score" — to rob the lavish Chicago Place shopping mall of the more than $10 million expected to be in its vault, awaiting transport to the bank on Christmas Eve.

But Scalzetti's supposed nobility of purpose (to finance a $250,000 bone-marrow transplant for his son with leukemia — shades of Denzel Washington's John Q) doesn't quite jibe with his selection of five psychotic heist partners.

Morgan goes to the mall to meet his wife Cat (Erika Eleniak). But before he reaches the jewelry store where she works, he spots Scalzetti and his henchmen marching menacingly through the shopping venue.

After following the gang to the basement shipping-and-receiving area, Morgan incredibly makes off with the money and hides it in a men's room. That's followed by a series of slugfests and gunfire that trashes entire sections of the mall, as the movie deteriorates into a mindless shoot-'em-up reminiscent of those that crowd premium-cable networks' late night schedules.

Carner and his creative team try to work in some family themes and a feel-good ending for the holiday, but those get lost amid all the murder and mayhem. Scenes involving Cat and a half-dozen others taken hostage by the gang — including a boozy store Santa and a mother and daughter — are particularly stilted and uninspired.

In the last half-hour, when Scalzetti escapes with Cat and the loot through a hole blasted with explosives, the story also falls into a hole. The subsequent subterranean go-kart chase is similar to — and works no better than — the final underground motorcycle chase in Arnold Schwarzenegger's Collateral Damage.

Christmas Rush
bows Dec. 1 at 8 p.m. on TBS.

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