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‘Into the Storm’ big on sound and fury, short on story

Richard Armitage, Matt Walsh, Max Deacon, Nathan Kress and Sarah Wayne Callies star in 'Into the Storm.'
Richard Armitage, Matt Walsh, Max Deacon, Nathan Kress and Sarah Wayne Callies star in 'Into the Storm.'
Courtesy Warner Bros./New Line (c) 2014.

Into the Storm

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Into the Storm” is at heart an old-fashioned disaster movie, which is its strength and weakness at the same time. Clearly you shouldn’t expect a lot of character development out of an hour and a half long movie that trades primarily on spectacle. Disaster movies and war movies both have to squeeze such frivolities in around the action set pieces.

Director Steven Quales (“Final Destination 5”) and writer John Swetnam (“Step Up All In”) seem to have started with the concept of a “found footage” disaster movie, and thankfully, saner heads have prevailed. You wouldn’t be able to make heads or tails out of a movie about a barrage of tornadoes shot with cell phones. The problem, as regular moviegoers have learned, the overused “found footage” gimmick is all too often a substitute for writing, and Swetnam’s script is thin. The other problem is that vestiges of the “found footage” concept insist on popping up periodically, but inconsistently, and it’s just enough to be distracting.

Most of what you need to know about the plot you can get from the poster, let alone the TV teasers. Professional storm chasers, YouTube thrillseekers and midwestern townspeople are thrown together as an unprecedented onslaught of tornadoes bear down on a small, tornado belt community. Richard Armitage (“The Hobbit” movies) is a single dad and assistant principal with two teenaged sons (Max Deacon of TV’s “Hatfields & McCoys” and Nathan Kress of TV’s “iCarly”). Matt Walsh (“The Hangover,” “Due Date,” “Ted”) is a storm chaser obsessed with getting video footage while ignoring the advice of Sarah Wayne Callies (TV’s “The Walking Dead”) as a meteorologist trying to predict where the next big storm will pop up. In a vintage seventies disaster movie, the cast would be made of bigger names and the characters would be drawn in broader brush strokes, and that actually would have helped..

The acting is fine. They aren’t doing Shakespeare, and everyone gets through their uninspired dialogue without undue embarrassment. They’re mainly there to hang onto the scenery, and they all shine at that. The script makes one or two half-hearted attempts to address possibly climate change-influenced weather, but it never amounts to much. There’s some backstory exposition against backdrops of rubble, and that never amounts to much either. It doesn’t hurt that Tara Reid is nowhere to be seen.

Property damage is where “Into the Storm” lives and breathes, and there it delivers, in spades, with boatloads of very convincing special effects. Quale and his army of digital and miniature artists frequently manage to startle the audience with big debris dropping into the frame without warning, and some of the scenes of characters hanging on for dear life are genuinely unnerving. Of course hanging on for dear life is pretty much all the characters can do in a tornado movie. Unlike say, the “Airport” movies or “The Towering Inferno,” there’s less human characters can do in movies that revolve around natural disasters, as in “Earthquake” or “Twister.” They just have to wait for the storm to blow over while we groove on the property damage.

That, however, provides a pretty good cinematic thrill ride, so long as you don’t mind checking your brain at the door. Shakespeare mentioned a tale ”full sound and fury, signifying nothing.” That pretty much covers it.

"Into the Storm" is now showing at theaters across the Capital District.