FRYEAN MYTHOS: *adventure*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTION: *sociological*
This flick is a bit more ambitious than your average DTV movie, in that it attempts to meld two types of action-scenarios: that of the "mismatched partners performing rescue-mission" with that of "save Earth from a cosmic disaster." DAY won't make anyone forget big-budget thrillers like ARMAGEDDON, but it's an OK time-killer if one doesn't think too hard about it.
A gigantic meteor is heading toward Earth, and though the current administration has a high-tech defense, it's not an effective one. Somehow Brother Thomas Payne (Mario Van Peebles), the leader of a Christian charismatic group, knows that an alternate method of defense, devised by one Doctor Corbett, is the only thing that can stop the big rock. Since Payne believes the big rock is the instrument of God, sent to obliterate sinning humanity, Payne and his well-armed cultists kidnap Corbett, so that he can't give the U.S. government any aid when their first line of defense fails.
I said one shouldn't think too hard about the film. However, given that one of the big-brass generals remarks on the fact that Payne takes Corbett alive, the viewer can't help but wonder: why doesn't the cult-leader simply shoot Corbett from the get-go? Why does the religious fanatic take the prof captive and hold him prisoner in Payne's secret compound? He's not trying to do anything with or to Corbett -- to convert him, or brainwash him-- and if his only purpose is to make sure the meteor gets through and does its dirty work, killing the physicist would seem to be the most logical option.
The extra-diegetical reason is, of course, that with Corbett dead, the story's mismatched partners have no one to rescue, and no way to save the planet. By-the-book FBI agent Tyrell (Suzy Amis) obtains the release of hard-time convict Reese (Ice-T), who had once been associated with Payne and now bears the cult-leader a major grudge.
The majority of the scenes are indistinguishable from any other action-flick, and thus this is a rare example of a film in which both the heroes and villains are thoroughly naturalistic in their phenomenality, and the only marvelous entity is an inanimate object from outer space, though one might also count Corbett's defense-system as a science-fiction device. To date, only the western MACKENNA'S GOLD presents a set-up in which the only metaphenomenality inheres in the environment.
Van Peebles makes a fairly charming nutbar, but Amis makes a bland heroine, and Ice-T doesn't give one of his better performances. Payne's opening speech emphasizes the maltreatment of Afro-Americans as his motivation for wanting to see the whole planet blow up, but not surprisingly, these sociological touches are given a ham-handed treatment.