Da Vinci Treasure, The

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 05/19/06 00:41:56

"Wait a second, this title sounds familiar..."
1 stars (Sucks)

OK, here’s the plan: we’ll rip off half of “The Da Vinci Code” and half of “National Treasure,” lift a sizable chunk from “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” toss in an exploding helicopter or two, give C. Thomas Howell the lead role, and toss the whole thing out as a direct-to-video affair, releasing it just a few days after the blockbuster movie version of “The Da Vinci Code” hits theaters. And hey, let’s call the whole thing “The Da Vinci Treasure.” It’ll be fun!

Actually, no it won’t. I want to like the guys from The Asylum Home Entertainment, the DTV company that pumps out cheapie horror flicks and rip-offs on popular movies. I really do. They seem like nice guys, never thinking their products are anything more than the B pictures they are. And hey, every once in a while, they actually manage to make a decent movie. But c’mon, guys. “The Da Vinci Treasure?” Really? Are you even trying with this one?

Howell (an Asylum regular these days) stars as forensic anthropologist Michael Archer, who’s become obsessed with finding a hidden treasure, the whereabouts of which can be discovered if one unlocks a series of clues left behind by “that clever bastard” Leonardo Da Vinci. He teams up with Italian theologian Guilia Pedina (Nicole Sherwin, whose job here is to wear low cut shirts and bend over a lot), and the two follow the trail from Da Vinci’s Codex to the Shroud of Turin and the Last Supper and beyond, all while trying to remain one step ahead of the villainous Dr. John Coven (Lance Henriksen) and his anthropologist hit-woman sidekick (Alexis Zibolis).

If any of this sounds cheap and ridiculous, that’s because it is. “Treasure” is a rather lazy effort, hastily slapped together by screenwriters Paul S. Bales and Carlos De Los Rios and director Peter Mervis. Their story hopes to present a Dan Brown feel by tossing in real life artifacts, but it can’t be bothered with presenting them in a realistic light - we’re expected to believe that the Shroud of Turin is just laying around, unguarded, in some basement, or that if you’re visiting the Last Supper in the middle of the day, you’ll be lucky enough to get a good view, because neither tourists nor security guards are nowhere in sight. Oh, and Leonardo Da Vinci could figure out the exact longitude and latitude (to the second) of a random spot in the Afghani desert.

But it’s just a movie, and these things shouldn’t matter. Except they do, because the movie works so very hard to sound impressive. The filmmakers want to give everything a sense of History Channel realism, but they often come up short in their homework. I’ll admire their ability to work in the theory that Da Vinci used an early form of photography to create the Shroud of Turin, but I’ll take back that admiration when we see Howell stuffing the surprisingly not-brittle cloth into his backpack. (By the way, the line “Christ’s shroud in a backpack!” should very well replace “Jesus H. Christ on a pogo stick!” in our popular vernacular.)

There’s also no actual logic at all to any of the clues, while the clues themselves, and their solutions, come to us blatantly stolen from this movie’s “inspirations.” (The whole thing about the funky glasses in “National Treasure?” Yup, that’s here, only in a way that makes science work in a way science does not actually work.)

Before we get to the big finale, we’re tossed a couple of action sequences that too often reveal the movie’s limited budget. We get San Diego standing in for London (not buying it) for a car chase scene that fails to thrill in every shot, and then we get the California desert standing in for Afghanistan (not buying it) for a notably dull shoot-out between a sports car and a helicopter. These are the key sequences DTV action fans will be wanting to see when they rent this thing, and they’re bound to wind up highly disappointed.

(Mervis, who also edited the film, tries to hip things up and, at the same time, cover up the low budget as much as possible by tossing us a collection of freeze frames, computer beeps, and screen flashes. The idea, I think, is to make this look like a Tony Scott film, in spirit if not in budget. It bombs. We become annoyed, not impressed, with these gimmicky touches.)

And when all else fails, the filmmakers toss us into a “Raiders” knock-off, complete with darts shooting out of the walls when a booby trap is sprung. Yeah, it’s that kind of cheap.

It’s all a big, boring mess, one that can best be summed up by its very first scene. In it, our hero and an associate are breaking into some mansion where the Codex is kept. As they stand on the porch picking the lock to the front door, not six feet away from them are two armed guards, lighting a cigarette, somehow unable to see these thieves in their peripheral vision. It’s an image that will have you both giggling like mad and screaming fifty questions at the screen at the same time. It’s stupid, it’s unintentionally hilarious, and it doesn’t make a lick of sense. Welcome, my friends, to “The Da Vinci Treasure.”

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