Sign up for our free newsletter
Even Rob Cohen knows a story is supposed to have a conflict: The XXX director’s latest, Stealth, is man vs. machine all the way. The machine, a warplane flown by artificial intelligence, is armed with weaponry, yes, but it’s also equipped with a whole lot of sassback. “Leave me alone!” the gizmo known as EDI (for, ahem, Extreme Deep Invader) says to Henry, a superpilot played by Jamie Foxx, whose small, embarrassing role was secured way before all the Ray worship. “You’re not getting it, are you, lieutenant?” it tells another flying ace, Ben Gannon (Josh Lucas). “EDI is the whole idea!” Sadly, EDI’s right. Stealth’s top gunners—Jessica Biel’s Kara completes the team—are mere pawns in this latest Cohen disaster, which like XXX and The Fast and the Furious is low on narrative and high on numbskullery. Assuming his audience is not only attention-deficient-disordered but also just plain stupid, Cohen keeps the teaching aids as frequent as the explosions, offering maps of areas such as a former Soviet republic (fine) and Alaska (OK, maybe) and describing a new location as “Seattle—Washington” (come on!). But the most egregious misstep of all is EDI itself, which not only gets laughingly lippy but also develops a habit of eavesdropping menacingly on its masters, forcing them to talk behind…a sheer room-divider. Screenwriter W.D. Richter tries to play up the man side of things with a terrible love story, but no amount of sexual tension—and to be fair, there’s almost as much as there are adrenaline-pumping action sequences—can make up for the cheesiness of a dopey machine going HAL on everybody. The script is also unsettlingly racist, with the pilots’ call numbers assigned, in descending order, to the white man, the white lady, and the black guy, and cigars being wistfully described as having been “rolled on the thighs of mulatto women”—not to mention the scene in which Henry is shown dancing around with sunglasses and a basketball while the others study. Near the end of these two hours of nonsense, EDI is asked whether it has any feelings, to which it replies, “I feel…sorry.” So should everyone involved.