According to the internet, so it must be true, Agent Red had an initial shoot of two weeks. Director Damian Lee’s assembly cut was rejected by the producers. One of the producers, prolific shitty movie filmmaker Jim Wynorski, then reshot about forty minutes of the movie in three days. That incredible effort still wasn’t enough to finish the film, so it was then stuffed with footage cut from other movies, including ’90s blockbusters Blown Away and Crimson Tide. I’m pretty sure there’s a sequence from Red Dawn in there, as well. Usually, when such extreme measures are taken to rescue a failed film, the result is an unwatchable mess. This dog actually remains coherent. Amazing.
Released in 2000, Agent Red is one of those Die Hard on a… or Die Hard at a… flicks. There’s a reluctant hero thrust into a hostage situation in a unique environment, and the bad guys have a charismatic leader with a grudge, and maybe an ulterior motive or two.
The hero in this flick is Captain Matt Hendricks (Dolph Lundgren), a member of a Marines special ops unit who has been given a unique assignment.
The Cold War is over. At the time of filming, Boris Yeltsin was still president of Russia, and the Second Cold War was still a gleam in Putin’s eyes. This context is important, because the plot of this film makes more sense when one remembers that, at the time, Russia was a beaten foe, with huge responsibilities when it came to its store of weapons of mass destruction that it could not meet.
One of those weapons, in this movie’s universe, is Agent Red, a virus that kills within seconds of exposure. It was developed by the United States, but the project was shelved because of its frightening implications. Such reservations were unknown to the Soviet Union, which acquired the virus and continued to develop it. Now, post-Cold War, they want nothing to do with it anymore, and have convinced the U.S. to come take it off of their hands. Enter Captain Hendricks.
He has been assigned as an extra layer of security for an American submarine that is transporting the virus back to the States. To fulfill the Bonnie Bedelia requirement of the Die Hard on a…, the scientist keeping charge of the virus is Hendricks’s ex-fiancee, Dr. Linda Christian (Meilani Paul). Rounding out the Die Hard necessities is the late Alexander Kuznetsov as Kretz. His conceit is outrage at the United States for inventing Agent Red, and Mother Russia for refining it into the weapon it is today. His plan is to take a team of terrorists, infiltrate the submarine, place Agent Red in the sub’s ballistic missiles, and shoot them at New York and Moscow, bringing about much death, and possibly World War Three. It’s an ambitious plan, and perfect for this silly movie.
Conveniently for the film’s budget, Kretz and his henchmen release the virus aboard the sub as they take it over, killing everyone but Hendricks, who was given a vaccine for Agent Red, and Christian, who had a gas mask. No more extras needed. All that remains for the rest of the film, two entire acts, is for Hendricks to take out all the terrorists one by one, taunt Kretz over the radio, and set up the inevitable denouement. All of this has to be done before the navy blows up its own sub to end the threat.
Let’s not pretend for a second that a viewer won’t know how this is going to go. If one is watching this movie, then there is no way the material is new. One has to dig pretty deep into the action movie lineup on streaming services to find this flick. There are dozens of Die Hard on a… flicks before one will even find Agent Red. So, it’s not plot that’s going to draw one into this film. It’s the moments of shitty filmmaking.
There’s small stuff, like when one of the characters is pressing buttons on a keypad, only there are very clearly no keys on the pad. There’s medium stuff, like a lack of concern in the continuity of stock footage. Also, exteriors of the submarine in port were shot at Long Beach, using the old Soviet sub B-427 that is docked next to the Queen Mary. One can see her black and red hull in the background. This was a matter of convenience for the production, as there was no other reason to have a Soviet sub playing an American one when there are so many museum ships to choose from in this country. As for the interiors, they were shot at a Los Angeles water and power facility. There are lots of pipes and metal staircases that fit the submarine aesthetic well enough, as long as one ignores the concrete floors.
And then there’s the overarching stuff, that couldn’t be excised without ditching the plot entirely. By this, I mean the mission itself. Bear with me while I go through it.
So, Russia has a deadly bio-weapon that they want to get rid of. Why not destroy it? For whatever reason, they can’t do that. Fine. The United States wants it and they are willing to provide transport. Why a submarine? Why not a plane? A plane would be quicker, and there are a lot less people on a plane that could potentially be exposed. No matter, they go with a submarine. But why, oh why, would the United States ever send one of its boomers for a mission like this? I can’t ever picture a ballistic missile sub being given this assignment, much less one of these subs ever docking at a Russian port, for the exact reason that events in the film portray. Your nuclear missile sub cannot ever be seized by foreign terrorists if it never docks anywhere but one of your naval bases. The entire plot doesn’t pass scrutiny.
But, that’s okay. None of us are here looking for the next great action flick. We’re here for the nonsense, the bad acting, the poor CGI, the overuse of stock footage, the shameless cribbing from other films, etc. The entire package is one glorious salute to substandard cinema. Agent Red is exactly what viewers expect it to be. That still isn’t enough to keep it out of the bottom half of the Shitty Movie Sundays Watchability Index. It displaces another Dolph Lundgren Die Hard at a… flick, Hard Night Falling, at #296.