Axcellerator (2019)

David Giancola was just 19 when he wrote and directed his first feature, the cult sci-fi Time Chasers, in 1994. This would be the first of many films that he would make for his production company Edgewood Studios, all meeting low budgets with high ambitions. His latest, Axcellerator, is typical. As pizza delivery boy Dane (Ryan Wesen) and inventor Tomas (Mark ‘Woody’ Keppel) both – independently, yet simultaneously – try jacking the same SUV from a Miami car park, Dane finds himself in unexpected possession of the scientist’s erratically functioning teleportation prototype, and on the run from various government agencies that will stop at nothing to get their hands on the device. Along for the ride is express girl Kate (Laura James), literally swept off her feet by Dane as he passes through Arizona in an instant, and quickly warming to this average guy in extraordinary circumstances. On their tail is Brink (Sam J. Jones), a psychopathic ghost agent especially released from multiple life sentences by his Special Ops handler Sy (John James) to recover the ‘Axcellerator’ at any cost. 

This is essentially a cross-country chase movie propelled by a technological macguffin that helps our two young lovers get where and what they want faster – and thanks to the decidedly dildo-like appearance of the device, Axcellerator comes with a slyly funny sexual subtext. The repeat examples of urban carmageddon, and eventually the ski-slope dashes, are lifted straight from a James Bond movie, and the location-leaping protagonist recalls Doug Lyman’s Jumper (2008). The amateurism of the two principal characters, out of their depth from the start, reflects the status of the film itself, punching far above its own weight (and budget) to create as many large-scale action sequences as it can, and to get a whole lot of bang for its buck. It is derivative to a fault, but never takes itself too seriously, and delivers a geeky kind of charm. 

As agent Amanda Graham, sci-fi icon Sean Young (of Blade Runner fame) at first seems literally to be phoning her performance in, conducting all her communications from the back of a car via her mobile (itself a device that connects one place to another) – but eventually she is brought closer to the action, even as Dane must resort to more conventional modes of transport to get from A to B. Meanwhile, John James and especially Jones obviously relish their rôles as kill-happy villains (very different from Jones’ defining part as dim-witted sports-and-space hero Flash Gordon), and their sheer joy in doing bad brings an infectious sense of fun to everything on screen. Much as the device at the film’s centre enables rapid shifts in location, the presence of Young and Jones offers an instant temporal link back to the Eighties – that decade of high-concept action comedy filmmaking whose spirit is being channelled in this cartoonish caper, as fast-moving as it is quickly forgettable.

© Anton Bitel