Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Screenplay Babylon [Review: Babylon A.D.]

This film, in which Vin Diesel's future mercenary smuggles a mysterious young woman and her religious minder from a chaotic, kill-or-be-killed Eastern Europe to the richer, advertise-or-be-advertised West, surprises with both strengths and weaknesses but ultimately disappoints.

The casting is excellent - for your money you get Vin Diesel who, if his repertoire is limited to tough-as-nails mercenaries, tough-as-nails convicted killers etc., at least he plays them extremely well, plus Michelle Yeoh! as that religious minder who is peaceful but not weak, and Charlotte Rampling!! as a sinister, white trouser-suit wearing cult leader. The settings, particularly the poverty and lawlessness of the East, are well portrayed and the plot holds together (or at least it would do - see below.)

I felt the script for this film was poor - actually bad enough to kill the film. A particular low is Rampling's diatribe to her minions about their failure to recover Melanie Thierry's character, but all the leads are forced to deliver totally unconvincing dialogue. This is a real waste of talent and also, through bad, bad, bad exposition dumping, ruins what would otherwise be a cool plot - a cynical cult seeking to stage a miracle in order to become a real religion. And I can't bring myself to discuss the ending.

Given the presence of Vin - and for that matter Yeoh - you might be prepared to accept a lame script in fair exchange for the promise of extravagant stunts or thrilling martial arts action. Sorry - the talent is wasted here too. Action sequences are brief and unimaginative, and neither Vin nor Yeoh get to strut their funky stuff beyond the odd fisticuff or gunfight. There's also an entire troop of parkour stunt actors credited - but in their confrontation with Vin and party all they seem to do is jump around as if the seedy nightclub setting is actually a bouncy castle.

It's a real credit to all the actors here, Vin included, that they actually do as much as they can with such poor material. It's amazing how much a good actor can achieve non-verbally, but sadly in this case it's not quite enough to restore the balance.


Sci-Fi Gene said...

Edit: I removed a site-plugging comment as it had no relevance to the post. Blog link requests should be made via e-mail - thanks.

Michael Chrichton said...

I agree wholeheartedly. This film was begging for more flash and action. The parkour members were wasted in their roles. They can do these amazing things and none of their excellence was shown. The story was weak but I think the direction was worse. A good director would have made good use of the parkour element and Vin Diesel's presence.