Synopsis: Set in a world where crime has become rife, the government of the United States decides that the solution is a signal that will inhibit people from committing acts of crime. The decision is one that is attracting riots and protests. A son of a local crime-lord decides to take the opportunity to do one last heist job. For it to work though, he has to assemble a crew and find a way to get around the signal, for the time it will take to rob $1 billion . . .
The world of the story feels like it may take place in the same universe as the Purge series of films. Yes, the device that the government plan to use on everyone makes it sci-fi, but it’s not time-travel or cyborgs type. This feels realistic, and at first gritty. Absolute warfare has been declared on the psychological aspect of making money by crime. The solution is very much final. Only by removing choice can a Utopia be reached. As a plot device and basis for a story, this is interesting. Unfortunately, there’s very little exploration of who brought this idea to pass, or who first came up with it. That would have been great to see, and it’s the first time you find yourself saying “it’s a shame, if only this film . . .”.
The heist concept, as a way to beat the system one last time, isn’t bad in itself. All films need a plot, as the central “sci-fi” idea alone doesn’t get things moving along. The typical putting of a team takes far too long, and once it finally does happen, that’s all you’re invested in. If they manage to pull the job. The fact that they are shortly about to have their brains controlled becomes secondary, very quickly. Then, it stops being an issue at all, really. It’s relegated to nothing short of an inconvenience. You start to wonder what the film is really about, and why there aren’t more focused scenes that really start to think about the idea of being made to be good. It’s too basic and sadly, becomes pretty boring.
Edgar Ramirez does a good job of establishing that this is a violent film. He gets across that his character is used to this world, and will do what has to be done. Ramirez tries to make an everyman out of Graham Bricke, and more than simply someone who makes a living from crime. Due to dull writing, that’s really all he ever is. Saying that as a tough-guy Ramirez does what he can for the role. You just can’t ever get fully behind him, because you aren’t told who he is. Again, Ramirez manages to make the best of it, and provide a good performance of a limited character and a generic arc.
Anna Brewster has her moments and commands the screen during her introduction. She goes on to develop the character of Shelby Dupree and deals with the emotional side of the character well, once we get to see what’s really driving her motivations. There’s never any real depth to the role, though. She’s no worse than Ramirez, but certainly never threatens to upstage him, considering she’s the dual lead of the movie. Those initial flashes of dominance fail to develop into anything that ever really lights the touch-paper.
Secondary and supporting roles include Michael Pitt’s Kevin Cash. He brings some humour and a sense of fun to proceedings but again doesn’t dominate. There are ample chances to steal the show, but that isn’t ever the case, sadly. There’s very little nuance or emotional manipulation, that a role like his requires. Sharlto Copley barely manages to establish his presence at all, and on the rare occasion, he does you aren’t that bothered anyway, as it’s another case of too little, too late.
CGI & Action
This is about the best element of the film. The action, more than the CGI (there’s very little of CGI, really). The brutal nature of the world of the film comes across well, and the explosions and gunfights are well-choreographed, as are the fight scenes. Whilst they don’t rescue the movie, you at least get something to entertain you. Whilst many other aspects of the film are spoiled by dull and unimaginative writing, this stuff does work. Still, it’s hardly state of the art or fresh in its approach, so don’t be expecting to see something that blows you away. You’ll be disappointed. the big finale chase is exciting though and does what so much of the films have failed to do. Stay basic and engaging.
When you see the signal turned on, the world around the characters seems to wobble and vibrate. That works well and you get the feeling that the vibrations they’re being subjected to are genuine. It’s not over the top and looks realistic. The same can be said of the pyrotechnics in the movie, too. The sense of danger is captured by a mixture of quick movement and good stunt work. There’s plenty of both, too. That works well for this film and keeps the lack of pace from completely dominating.
Taking what it’s in a graphic novel and making it appear in a screen-version isn’t easy. There is a definite scenic feel to the action and the chase-element. The way that fire looks is a clever way to show the concept of a “world ablaze”, and that does come through well. In addition to this, the sheer scale of what they’re planning on pulling off also gets a good visual representation. The fighting they know they’ll have to do, especially towards the end of the film, manages to show just how much they have to try and achieve. The guns seem to be realistic, too, and are plentiful. Again, that captures the risk and the aspect of this being an all or nothing attempt. In that way, the action does successfully marry-up and convey the story’s dramatic conclusion well.
Overall and Incidental Music
Sadly, this is a confused film. The writing lacks cohesion, from a basic story-telling perspective. If it’s not going to be about the signal that can force people to abide by the law, in terms of there being a background to it, and an in-depth assessment of the morality surrounding it, then the angle they choose to go with has to be much stronger. You have to like the characters more and be fully invested in them. You never really are. There’s not any reason too, as nothing’s developed, sadly. That includes the character interactions and relationships. They just never take-off and become anything more than basic and only covers the basics to get the plot from one point to the next. Talking of which . . .
The length of the film gave ample opportunities to go into depth with the world of the setting. What was promised was a look at what America would seem like if it was made crime-free. There was so much scope to assess societal elements. That;’s why you come up with an idea like this, to give a device to measure the morality of it by. That’s not what happens. If you took away the aspect of people being made to be good, this film would have worked anyway. The plot would still be what it is. Another generic heist movie, but not even one with characters you can really get behind. The result is a mash-up of what might have been. Very loose themes and suggestions of a moral fable. A “bank-job” flick, and not even a particularly clever one, either. Finally, it could have just relied on great characters and told us that way. It didn’t. Not even the decent soundtrack can rescue it. It;s unfair to call it a car-crash of a film, as that means multiple elements have to be risible, before they collide. The actors do their best, which admittedly isn’t Oscar-worthy. Some individual action scenes are enjoyable, but mostly, the writers had a bad day and made a howler of a film that drags. By the time it gets where it’s headed, you’re just not that bothered and feel like some other switch is responsible for you zoning out, at a point, you can’t be expected to remember. One thing you’re absolutely sure of by the end is “it’s a shame if only this film . . .”. was good.
- Incidental Music & Overall6.1