December 09, 1996 12:00 PM

Sylvester Stallone, Claire Bloom, Barry Newman, Karen Young, Sage Stallone, Rosemary Forsyth

As preposterous—and irresistible—as a ’70s disaster movie, this film could easily have been called Tunnel! There is even the requisite array of former stars to face the crises as a traffic accident involving a toxic-waste disposal truck ignites an explosion that starts to collapse the Manhattan Tunnel, a two-mile passageway under the Hudson River connecting New York City and New Jersey. All that’s missing are George Kennedy and Shelley Winters.

Stallone is a car-service driver caught in the resultant chaos. But he is also—mirabile dictu!—the disgraced former head of New York City Emergency Medical Services. Knowing the tunnel as well as he does, he is chosen to help find a group of motorists trapped in one of its collapsed sections.

Quicker than you can say The Poseidon Adventure, Sly is leading the survivors on a sloshing, swimming escape. Among those rescued are the underutilized Young and the athletically comely Amy Brenneman, as a playwright who becomes Stallone’s main helper, not to mention potential tunnel-of-love partner. Stan Shaw as a devoted tunnel cop, Dan Hedaya as Stallone’s former EMS assistant and Newman as the Tunnel Authority boss also back up Sly.

With no villain to snarl at, Stallone is at a bit of a loss, but the struggle against the elements holds our attention, and it’s always fun in a movie like this trying to figure out who will survive. (PG-13)

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