Into the Storm ✮1/2
Attack of the Killer Tornadoes
by Glenn Lovell
Just so you don’t think it’s pure claptrap, the makers of “Into the Storm,” mid-picture, toss in references to hurricanes Sandy and Katrina. It’s their way of distancing themselves from “Sharknado,” “Aftershock” and other natural-disaster quickies. Their picture, you see, isn’t just about being sucked up into a 300-mph vortex; it’s also a timely comment on global warming and the monster storms to come.
Yeah, sure ‒ and Eli Roth’s “Cabin Fever” is really a World Health Organization alert.
A hybrid of “Twister” and every disaster epic of the 1970s, “Into the Storm” mostly utilizes the found-footage format to provide a POV perspective on an Oklahoma storm that begins with angry skies and golf-ball-size hailstones and graduates to multiple hopscotching funnels, all converging on the same spot at the same time.
The storm couldn’t be better timed: Like Amity Island in “Jaws,” Silverton is poised for a fun summer. It’s high-school graduation day, don’t you know, and half the town’s teens are seated outside, under the gathering clouds.
In typical disaster melodrama fashion, we’re introduced to a handful of folks who will eventually be thrown together for The Big Finish. There’s the legendary storm chaser (Matt Walsh) at the wheel of his state-of-the-art, armor-plated vehicle. He has everything riding on the venture and will place his untested assistants in harm’s way for footage of the storm. There’s the single-mother meteorologist (Sarah Wayne Callies of “Walking Dead”) who relies on data rather than instinct to track the massive front. There’s the single, preoccupied vice-principal (Richard Amitage) and his rebellious sons (Max Deacon and Nathan Kress). The latest Storm of the Century conveniently doubles as bonding experience and first date. (Callies is literally swept off her feet when she meets Amitage.)
For comedy relief (as if this film needed any), newbie director Steven Quale throws in a couple “Jackass”-styled rubes outfitted with GoPros. For these guys, the storm is the ultimate YouTube stunt.
The ubiquitous Walsh (“Veep,” “Ted”) turns in the only interesting performance as the lead storm tracker. He’s a suicidal nutter who deserves his Ahab-like fate. At least here Quale and company don’t disappoint.
The real star, however, is Titus, the four-ton chase vehicle. Standard equipment: 24 surveillance cameras, winch, grappling claws, 4-mm solid steel exterior, revolving turret. The latter, Walsh brags, will provide a “sight that nobody but God has witnessed ‒ the eye of the tornado.”
You could argue that “Into the Storm” delivers on its hype. It fuses decent CGI and wall-shaking sound, the usual quotient of cliffhanger situations ‒ including one in which two teens are trapped underground as the water rises ‒ and a lot of very bad dialogue. A sampling: “Wow, look at that!” “We got to take cover!” And our favorite, which comes after the roof has been torn off the school, “Anybody hurt?”
For fans of this sort of thing who go expecting airborne bovine a la “The Wizard of Oz” and “Twister,” sorry, you’re out of luck.
INTO THE STORM ✮1/2 With Richard Amitage, Sarah Wayne Callies, Matt Walsh, Max Deacon, Alycia Debnam Carey. Directed by Steven Quale; scripted by John Swetnam. 89 min. Rated PG-13 (for profanity, storm violence)