Sunday, April 15, 2012
There was no way this movie was going to be much good. It came out of no where, was made by nobody and had virtually no publicity around it. Hell, I did not even know it existed till I saw the trailer a month ago. So if all of that is true, why did I go and see it? Simple, Guy Pearce. I have been a fan of his since I first saw "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert". There he was the screwed up drag queen, who did not know when to shut his mouth. Here he plays the same character, except that he is not a drag queen and is fighting convicts in space rather than backwards yahoos in the Australian outback. OK, maybe there are a few other differences as well.
From my point of view, he is the actor from L.A. Confidential who got screwed out of completing the L.A. Confidential Academy Award, Best Actor trifecta. Kevin Spacey won the next year for "American Beauty", Russell Crowe won the year after that for "Gladiator", and Pearce not only did not win for his brilliant performance in "Memento", he did not even get nominated. He did however appear in the Academy Award winning Best Pictures for the two years prior to this. That gives him some professional cred. So what is he doing in this slice of sci-fi /action mash up? Hell, Michael Caine has made a lot of crummy movies over the years as well, sometimes you just have to pay the mortgage. Plus, he does get to be the lead in an action film which let's him channel his best Kurt Russell snarl and Bruce Willis bravado and play cops and robbers in space.
The set up of the movie is made clear in the trailer. A top security prison in space is taken over by the inmates and the President's daughter is one of the hostages. Enter tough guy, rogue spy/cop to infiltrate alone and try to save the day. It's basically "Escape From Space", minus any John Carpenter competence. The story is boiler plate action spy nonsense which has a mysterious briefcase being sought after but it largely turns out that is simply an excuse to make us suspicious of everyone's motives. Plot is not really where this movie is going to leave an impression. The script also does not treat most of the characters as if they have any common sense. The one main exception is the dialog that spills out of Pearce's character Snow's mouth. He has a wisecrack for every occasion and an insult for everyone in sight. Listening to him spit out a punchline or mutter a crack under his breath is what makes this work at all. He is not some unbeatable robotic character like Arnold, he just happens to be the right kind of guy they need and he gets lucky, the script fixes most of his problems so he does not have to get by trying to out tough the scum of the Earth.
The effects on the shoot seem to be a mix of well done space backgrounds, lousy action CGI, and endless soundstage tunnels that allow the characters to get from place to place without being seen by every convict on the prison satellite. This was the first time I saw in the credits, every name of every member of the orchestra that played the score; including the instrument they played. As I looked at the credits, it was clear that most of the below the line talent came from somewhere in Eastern Europe. I never saw so many names ending in "vic" in my life. The two main bad guys in the prison, sounded like they had heavy Scottish brogues or were such drunken Irishmen that no one could understand most of what they say. Peter Stormare plays the head of the Secret Service/Security Service, and he has little to do except glower at other characters. The lead actress looked familiar but I had the cheat and look at IMDB to see she played Liam Neeson's daughter in "Taken". So basically she is being typecast. You actually sort of hate her character anyway because she is so oblivious to the world she lives in. By the end of the movie though, she is supposed to be the smartest person in the story.
The movie was not something I could recommend to anyone except those who have a taste for dumb Saturday matinee fare. This was a low budget action film that needed to get the most out of it's main asset, the lead actor. Guy Pearce delivers but it is something that you wouldn't have ordered if he was not the deliveryman.