James and Robert Dastoli had hardly reached puberty before they churned out Star Wars-inspired fan films like “Crossing of Fate” (2001). After abandoning their high school stomping grounds in Connecticut for the greener cinematic pastures of Rolando, Florida, these moviemaking twin brothers enrolled in the University of Central Florida and continued churning out effects-heavy, action genre short films.
“Evasive Maneuvers,” for instance, features Vic Gagne (played by James Dastoli, and also appearing in the brothers’ 2003 short “Under the Gun”), a teenaged James Bond. He may be too young to buy booze, but that’s not stopping this clean-cut, blandly robotic graduate from the Tom Cruise/Keanu Reeves cookie-cutter mold from exercising a license to kill. Meanwhile, his dialogue is Eastwoodian to the max. When an equally fresh-faced foe (Drew Lindo, also screenwriter and producer) exclaims, “You must have killed a lot of men to get this,” Gagne dryly remarks, “I don’t keep track.”
Following Gagne’s sour confrontation with a double-crossing, pony-tailed greaseball, “Evasive Maneuvers” is essentially one long chase scene. A token hot chick bystander (Padra Sanchez) is thrown into the mix to drive Gagne out of harm’s way, as gangsters shoot out of swerving vehicles and helicopters sling lead from above. High-rises are jolted by explosions, bullets ricochet off of car exteriors, and knives pierce throats, courtesy some nifty CG effects. The whole tightly wound ride is accented by an epic, rousing score that you’d expect to find backing some Bruckheimer extravaganza. It’s an impressive piece of genre work, especially considering the young ages of its ambitious creators.
But there’s something oddly distracting about the two-disc packaging for “Evasive Maneuvers.” The film itself is only14 minutes long. But viewers are also “treated” to the following frilly extras: English, French and Spanish dub and subtitles. Teasers. Trailers. Webspots. Cast and crew filmographies. Commentary. Music only track. “Making Of” footage. “On the Set” feature. Deleted material. Visual effects breakdown. Indeed, the only things not included in this self-congratulatory ego trip are a breakdown of Dastoli family genealogy and a complimentary Vic Gagne action figure.
Meanwhile, the question arises: does the world really need another fanboy filmmaking team stuck on genre staples? Perhaps not. But with “Evasive Maneuvers,” the Dastoli Brothers give a fat, defiant middle finger to the filmmaking world by exuding the kind of innocent drive and enthusiasm that seems sucked dry from even the most lavishly-budgeted Hollywood actioners.