Did you get to New Orleans for Mardi Gras this year? If so, watch for yourself in "On Hostile Ground," a made-for-TV movie debuting Sunday on TBS. Parts of it were filmed in the Big Easy during this year's festivities.
But it's a stone-solid bet that what happens to Matt Andrews, Allison Beauchamp and Cindy Evers during the big parade did not happen to you.
Sure, it's true that New Orleans is built on a massive, thick layer of peat. It's also true that peat burns, smoldering for months sometimes. And it's possible that the burnt peat could be washed away by the runoff from heavy storms and leave cavernous underground caves. And those caves could collapse under the city, creating gigantic, parade-swallowing sinkholes. But, so far as we know, that hasn't happened yet in the Crescent City.
It does happen in "On Hostile Ground."
Throw in a mayor who creates a designated blame-ee by delegating too much authority to one of his assistants, a press secretary who'd rather win the next election than evacuate a city full of free-spending tourists, and a geologist with a past that suggests his advice might be questionable, and you've got the right volatile mix for a disaster movie.
For what it is, "On Hostile Ground" is fairly entertaining, although it's not must-see TV. The plot quickly becomes a contest between man and nature, with the latter winning the first round: You will get to see big chunks of New Orleans sink into bottomless pits. Man's way of fighting back, however, may stretch credulity.
John Corbett, the disc jockey from "Northern Exposure," plays geologist Matt Andrews. Jessica Steen, the sister in "Homefront," plays mayoral assistant Allison Beauchamp. And Brittany Daniel, who plays Eve on "Dawson's Creek," is Allison's niece Cindy, who's riding a float in the big parade. Each makes the most of his or her time on-screen. But since it wasn't feasible to actually make parts of New Orleans sink beneath their feet during Mardi Gras, most of the disaster scenes were filmed much farther north, in Toronto, in December. You can easily tell which scenes: you can see the actors' breath.
There's one more flaw in "On Hostile Ground." It's hard to do a disaster film and make it look real on a TV-movie budget, so some of the underground scenes look a little cheesy.
But if the premise appeals or if you were in New Orleans for the parade give it a go. If you work at it, you can ignore the faults and enjoy the
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