Eric Qualen (John Lithgow) is an international terrorist with the ability to move large amounts of US currency around the world. Hence his plan to hijack a Treasury plane transporting $100 million with a specially-trained gang and a daring plan involving a plane-to-plane heist. When the heist is foiled by an FBI agent, the planes crash and the three cases containing all the money are lost in the Colorado Rockies. So, his gang poses as stranded hikers and calls for help from the local Colorado Mountain Rescue, who sends Gabe Walker (Sylvester Stallone) and Hal Tucker (Michael Rooker). They are forced to help the gang find the cases through the dangerous terrain.
Upon finding the first case, Walker is able to escape and destroys the case in the process. This sets off a race between Walker and the gang to see who can find the cases first, and who will be able to survive the mountains. Qualen has to continually yell with his extreme accent to keep his gang under control, but he does lead them. Even when the dirty Treasury officer who helped pull the inside job tries to make a power play, Qualen mercilessly executes the only other helicopter pilot (and his love interest) to ensure his own survival. In the end, Qualen does an awful lot of snarling and cussing, but not enough to pull off his mission.
It's kind of interesting: Qualen seems to be in charge, but very often relies on others to get things done. The whole plan on making millions is dependent on his ability to move the large US currency in those cases to clients around the world, but he also needed the Treasury agent in the first place, as well as the muscle to pull it off. In the Rockies, Qualen is out of his element, relying on Hal Tucker to lead him and the gang to the cases, but of course, Tucker will slow him down on purpose to allow Gabe to get the drop on them. You could say that as soon as the planes crashed, this operation should have been scrapped, but give the guy some credit for at least trying to cash in on $100 million, even if the chances of succeeding were slim to none.
INTELLIGENCE - 6: Qualen has put together a pretty ballsy plan to rob the US Treasury, and if not for the FBI's intrusion, might have pulled it off. His helicopter piloting skills also come in handy.
POWER - 5: He is capable with the gun and can even put up a fight with Sly Stallone, but only for a little while.
VILENESS - 10: Expendable gangs are only part of a mastermind's plans. Extreme determination and mercilessness is another part.
SWAY - 8: Besides the over-the-top accent and a few bipolar moments, Qualen was pretty intimidating and always in command of things.
PURITY - 9: Seems to be driven to a fault, but then again, you could say he's willing to go the extra mile to succeed in his evil plans.
PHYSICAL - 5: Is it possible to look greasy on the coldest mountaintop? Yes, it is.