Tagged in: 3 years too late

Babylon A.D. (2008)

Babylon A.D.

Babylon A.D. (Image via RottenTomatoes.com)

Vin Diesel is a near future mercenary tasked with smuggling two ladies to America, one of whom might hold the secret to the survival of mankind. Vin has to work extra hard to keep her alive, as you would imagine.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

This review was written 3 years too late

Life in Russia isn’t great for Diesel’s Toorup. As well as a daft name, he struggles to find anything decent to cook and eat that reaches his high gastronomic standards, and has to put up with levels of violence, lawlessness and no-hopery of the sort you’d normally only find in Croydon on a Saturday night.

In the middle of savouring some kill he’s carefully prepared in his bleak apartment kitchen, the whole place is invaded by bad types in black working for Gerard Depardieu, who wants Toorup to escort two women to America. A ton of cash and the promise of a clean passport are enough for Toorup to wearily say yes.

You don’t need me to tell you the rest, do you? Meets women, acts hard, gets them through tough spot after tough spot, starts to respect the older woman, is up for shagging the younger one. Betrayal follows, and of course he can’t walk away – we’ve seen this story so many times before.

What makes this mildly bearable, however, is a credible near future depiction of eastern Europe characterized by poverty and violence, and bizarro casting such as Charlotte Rampling so cold she could have been on a morgue slab for hours or Gerard Depardieu made up so heavily he resembles Al Pacino as Big Boy Caprice in Dick Tracey. (That said, the casting also lets Babylon A.D. down as we have to endure Lambert Wilson again. The man so lifeless in The Matrix movies, turns up here as a dull scientist who looks like a cross between John Shuttleworth and RoboCop.)

The action scenes have a European feel to them, somehow coming across as familiar yet different perhaps because they contain a hint of art amongst the mayhem such as one shoot out with slow-motion tracer fire drifting in front of and behind a character marching through the madness, or entire groups of attacking forces constantly tracked by deadly red dots of laser sights.

Someone’s been at this film with the scissors, it’s clear. And a quick look around the web confirms this. Multiple versions, a director who disowns his film, and stories of studio interference are easy to find. It’s possible the story was not so dreadful once, possible that it was chopped into its over familiar conventions. Which is a shame, because the makings of a good SF actioner were here. Instead, it’s left to babble on (I thank you) in its own turgid familiarity.

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