From the Archive – Velocity Trap (1997)

Velocity Trap (1997)


“Crime at the speed of light”

Inflicted by Phillip J. Roth
Starring Olivier Gruner, Alicia Coppola and Jorja Fox

In a weird future setting where electronic commerce has been destroyed by crime, a cargo ship has to carry a load of cash money between planets. Disgraced cop Olivier Gruner is given the crummy assignment of guarding the cash after being framed by a superior who is also a romantic rival. While the ship passes through an asteroid field, space-hijacker types board the ship and Gruner must fight them off more-or-less alone. Predictable plot “twists” are provided by the space pirates and ship’s crew continually trying to double-cross one another and get their hands on the loot.

What’s wrong with it?

In two words: Olivier Gruner. In a few more words: Olivier Gruner, the king hell pig run of all implausible settings, and cheap-jack production values. Jorja Fox and some guy as the space pirate leaders ham the hell out of their roles, which only serves to throw Gruner’s almost schizophrenic lack of affect into sharp relief.

What’s right with it?

Hmmm. Uh, OK! Here’s a thing. Gruner’s character and his shipmate are nicely ambiguous. As a cop who’s been kicked around by the forces of law and order, it would be traditional for him to be really upright and noble all the time. But in fact he’s really tempted by the idea of making off with the loot and writing off his beautiful but useless girlfriend. It’s left unclear at the ending, which is kind of nice.

How bad is it really?

Really? It’s bad. If you’re making a science fiction movie and you don’t have any money, you need to have good ideas or good performances. This has neither.

Best bit (if such there is)?

Easy. Left alone on the spaceship for months while the crew hibernate, Stokes (I just looked it up, and Olivier’s called Stokes in this movie) goes a little peculiar. This leads to the greatest scene in Olivier’s career, as he ballet dances around the empty ship in his long johns. It is absolutely amazing, and it’s twice as alarming coming in the middle of such a bland movie.

What’s up with…?

  • space pirate Fallout and his bazooka? Big guy has to have a big gun, I guess, but I’m not sure it’s a terribly practical weapon indoors.
  • Jorja “her from CSI” Fox and the armour with boobs on it? I guess in the future breasts will be much larger and need greater protection.
  • electronic funds transfers are no longer possible, so money is transferred between banks on different planets in shipments that take years? Rather than, say, each planet just having a totally separate economy.
  • Olivier’s girl being some other guy’s “contract wife?” It’s not important, she’s barely in the movie; it’s just five minutes of needless exposition.


Production values: Poor. CGI effects courtesy of Babylon 5. 15

Dialogue and performances: Oh hell no. 18

Plot and execution: Standard. Romantic failure, space pirates! Bang bang aaah. 12

Randomness: A certain amount. Shifty economy, uncalled for space battle scene. Also space ballet — good but random.13

Waste of potential: It’s got Olivier Gruner in it. On the other hand, replace him with, I dunno, Bruce Campbell and it could have been very good. 11

(like a lot of Gruner works, it dodges the bullet on Waste of Potential)

Overall 69%


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