(If you’re curious, my review process. It’s also pasted at the end of this post. I don’t believe in Rotten Tomatoes. I just believe in me.)
(***all-purpose SPOILER ALERT*** there may be some in this review)
SW SCORE: 31
3 out of 5 🐙
My first pandemic VOD comic book based movie! Woo! I put off seeing this movie for ages (read: a week or so) because I had zero interest. I got nothing hugely against Vin Diesel. But I would not say I’m a fan either. Outside of Pitch Black and Boiler Room, I haven’t really enjoyed most of the movies he’s been in. Yes, Guardians of the Galaxy was great, and he was Groot, but I’m sorry, any gravelly voiced guy could have done that role. This was not Andy Serkis in a motion capture body suit. This was one word. And you can come at me with all the acting is more than long dialogue speeches. But I’m just not impressed. Excuse me for living.
As such, my expectations were rock bottom. The movie starts out with an action set piece showing Ray Garrison (Vin Diesel), elite special forces guy, in action. He flouts orders, which is a court martial offense, but this is a movie, but still manages to save the hostage and show off his mad skills. In a rather efficient bit of directing, we know he’s not a conformist and that he’s a badass. You don’t need much more in an action movie.
As you probably already know from the trailers, Garrison is killed in action and his body is scooped up by a defense contractor and they replace his blood with this solution of billions of super advanced nanites that give him Wolverine-like healing abilities, effectively making him immortal, and turn his brain into a supercomputer with wireless access to the internet and all satellites. It’s another Robocop/Six Million Dollar Man/Officer Downe (HORRIBLE movie) setup: hero guy dies and is built back into a superman. In order to motivate the resurrected Garrison to perform missions, they are able to help him access the memories of his beloved wife being killed by bad guy X. Garrison, appropriately enraged, goes after the guy and takes him out. Just as he is about to kill Bad Guy X, he insists that he did not kill his wife. But who is Garrison going to believe his own memory or some desperate killer begging for mercy.
This is, interestingly enough, when things get Memento-ish. Things start to repeat and a big chunk of the movie is dedicated to figuring out the mystery. I won’t say more because that would be a spoiler. I say “interestingly” because Guy Pearce, of the short-term memory movie classic, plays the head of the contractor that resurrected Garrison. He acquits himself well, playing a smart, focused, assured leader of the project. He’s even got a thin, humanitarian rationale for his obviously deadly tech that gives his character a bit more filling. He’s assisted by KT (Eiza Gonzalez), a scientist/spy who could be the most attractive scientist/spy in movie history, which is no small feat. Toby Kebbell plays the obligatory role of “main villain lieutenant”. He’s got good menacing charisma, but his performance is pretty one note, much like Diesel’s “frown all the time” school of acting. Wilfred Wigans (Lamorne Morris), plays a black super hacker (representation is important – this is not sarcasm) who is nerd-charming and has a decent character arc for a supporting dude.
None of these action tropes are surprising. Neither is the Michael Bay-esque cinematography or the classic violations of super power internal logic. The mystery aspect I mentioned above is the really novel thing. It’s not an Inception-level conundrum, but it adds a nice layer to the movie. The most surprising thing about this movie is that the movie was kinda, really fun. Maybe I felt that way because my expectations were subterranean. But I gotta admit, I was entertained. The set pieces were well choreographed. The dialogue was brief, if not brilliant. I don’t expect Mamet, but if you’re gonna spout action cliches, keep them short.
This movie isn’t number one with a bullet, but it’s a big, dumb, decently fun, good time.
(1) Shark Wrighter (SW) Score: Based on a sum of 5 sub-scores (acting, directing, writing/story, effects: cinematography &/or animation &/or effects, editing) with 1 being terrible and 10 being terrific.
(2) Octopuses (0-5 🐙, with 5 being fantastic and 0 being feces)
(3) Octopuses are my unquantifiable feeling…not that SW score is scientific…but this one is even less so
(4) ++ This optional section includes any incredibly *brilliant observations that don’t fit into simple quantitative slices like the scores and octopuses *(they are likely NOT brilliant)