Tag Archives: D

INFINITE

Producers: Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Mark Vahradian, Mark Huffam, John Zaozirny, Mark Wahlberg and Stephen Levinson   Director: Antoine Fuqua   Screenplay: Ian Schorr   Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sophie Cookson, Jason Mantzoukas, Rupert Friend, Toby Jones, Dylan O’Brien, Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson, Liz Carr, Kae Alexander, Wallis Day, Tom Hughes and Joana Ribeiro   Distributor: Paramount+

Grade: D

Someday Hollywood may stop making big, dumb action movies that end with somebody with “special powers” doing battle with a villain intent on destroying humankind.  But “Infinite” proves that time has, regrettably, not yet come.  Antoine Fuqua’s movie was originally supposed to be released to theatres, but after several pandemic-related postponements has wound up on Paramount’s streaming service.  Even for those who subscribe to Paramount+, it’s still not worth the price of admission. 

Based on a book titled “The Reincarnation Papers” self-published in 2009 by D. Eric Maikranz, it begins with a car-chase prologue, set in 1985 Mexico City, in which a fellow we later learn is called Heinrich Treadway (Dylan O’Brien) is being chased by a couple of vehicles, one containing friends Abel and Leona (Tom Hughes and Joana Ribeiro) and the other their archenemy Bratwurst—sorry, Bathurst (Rupert Friend).  It ends with a crash in which Treadway leaps out of the sports car he’s driving.

Cut to the present, when Evan McCauley (Mark Wahlberg) wakes bathed in sweat from that nightmarish vision.  He’s off to interview for a job as a restaurant manager, but his background of violent behavior disqualifies him, and to secure the pills he needs to treat what’s been diagnosed as schizophrenia, he fashions a Japanese sword using ancient techniques and takes it to a sleazy drug dealer.  But a fight breaks out and he flees in a hail of gunfire, only to be arrested and taken in for questioning.

He’s interviewed by a strange, threatening guy (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who appears ready to kill him until he’s rescued by Nora Brightman (Sophie Cookson), who breaks down the building wall with her assault vehicle and spirits him away.  She explains what’s going on as they flee pursuers, destroying a good part of the city thoroughfare in the process.  (Massive collateral damage is always blithely ignored in movies like this.) 

As she tells it, Evan isn’t schizophrenic at all; he’s one of the Infinites, humans who are repeatedly reincarnated with the memories of all their past lives within them, waiting to be fully recovered.  He, in fact, is the reincarnation of Treadway, and his dream a fragment of that past life.  Other oddities about him—his knowledge of languages, his skill in the lost art of samurai sword making—are also elements of his prior identities. 

Nora further explains that the man who was interviewing him was the current Bathurst, the leader of the group of Infinites called Nihilists, who want to destroy all life on earth.  How?  By using a device called the Egg—not a piece of Fabergé finery but a mechanism that when activated will enter the DNA of every living creature and send them all up in smoke.  Why does he want to do such a horrible thing?  Because every time he’s reincarnated he remembers everything from all his past lives immediately and can’t stand the burden.

Nora, on the other hand, belongs to the Believers, who think it their responsibility to use their powers to assist humankind to progress.  Thus there is constant conflict between the sects of Infinites.

Evan is doubtful about all this, but Nora takes him to the Hub, the Believers’ futuristic headquarters, where, under the tutelage of other Believers like Kovic (Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson), Garrick (Liz Carr) and Trace (Kae Alexander), he undergoes training and tests to recover all his old memories and physical skills. That’s urgent, because only he knows where Heinrich hid the Egg, and they must find it before Bathurst does.  He, meanwhile, is busily searching for it, brutally interrogating Believers like Bryan Porter (Toby Jones), whom he encourages to give him information by a kind of waterboarding that replaces the water with honey (honeyboarding?).  When the Hub processes prove too slow, Evan is taken to the laboratory of the Artisan (Jason Mantzoukas), a wacky hedonist Believer whose methods of memory recovery are swifter, but much more dangerous.  Naturally Bathurst shows up there with his army of SWAT-style gunmen. 

From this point “Infinite” devolves into a cascade of action-movie tropes deadened by explanatory flashbacks to Treadway’s life, the revelation of where the Egg is located, and a ludicrous finale in which Evan, after landing atop the wing of Bathurst’s in-flight plane on a motorcycle, burrows into the cabin of the aircraft with his trusty sword to deactivate the fatal mechanism, leading of course to a protracted hand-to-hand fight with the villain.  All movies of this kind try to come up with a rip-roaring conclusion, but the one Schorr, Fuqua and their team of CGI craftsmen (supervised by Pete Bebb) have devised, in which the two men continue doing battle as they cling to some satellite-style gizmo as it hurtles to earth, all the while being bombarded by the strains of Harry Gregson-Williams’ blaring score, is more likely to induce gales of laughter than any sense of excitement. 

Naturally, there’s a postscript that threatens the possibility of a sequel, or perhaps a whole slew of them—an endless parade of reincarnations, after all, leaves lots of room—along with a heavy-handed message about how important it is for each person to work to improve the world.  Filmmakers could take that moral to heart: they could make things better by ceasing to waste hundreds of millions of dollars on pictures like this.

One can’t blame production designer Chris Seagers or cinematographer Mauro Fiore overmuch for the dreary mess that “Infinite” turns out to be—the futuristic sets, though hardly attractive, are okay, and the hectic camera moves try to inject some vitality.  But Conrad Buff’s editing, which veers abruptly from solemnly dull to spasmodic, is a problem, sometimes encouraging boredom and sometimes nausea.

And the performances are all over the place, with the actors responding very differently to what they must have recognized as hopeless material.  Wahlberg practically sleepwalks through the picture, phlegmatically tossing off the stream of unfunny wisecracks assigned to Evan as if he were bored with the whole sorry business.  By contrast Ejiofor and Mantzoukas opt to go the scenery-chewing route, with results that in the end are no less boring.  Everybody else pretty much plays things straight—which, given what they have to deal with, is simply deadening.

“Infinite” is a particularly pathetic example of big-budget sci-fi folderol, a woebegone attempt at a CGI-heavy action thriller that leaves egg on everyone’s face.

ROGUE HOSTAGE

Producers: Jordan Yale Levine, Jordan Beckerman, Tyrese Gibson and Jon Keeyes   Director: Jon Keeyes   Screenplay: Mickey Solis   Cast: Tyrese Gibson, Michael Jai White, Chris Backus, John Malkovich, Luna Lauren Velez, Holly Taylor, Carlos Sanchez, Brandi Bravo, Fedna Jacquet, Zani Jones Mbayise and Susannah Hoffman   Distributor: Vertical Entertainment

Grade: D

A cat-and-mouse battle between a lone hero and a bunch of evildoers holding a bunch of hostages in an enclosed place has long been the stuff of action movies (just think of “Die Hard” and its innumerable sequels and imitators), but rarely has it been done so anemically as in this poverty-row quickie directed by Jon Keeyes from a script by Mickey Solis.

Tyrese Gibson is Kyle Snowden, an ex-Marine suffering from PTSD and now working for child protective services while taking care of his own daughter Angel (Zani Jones Mbayise).  He and his partner spend the morning rescuing Manny (Carlos Sanchez), a cute little tyke, from the cruel guy with whom he’d been left. 

Kyle has a strained relationship with his stepfather Sam Nelson (John Malkovich), a businessman and politician who’s advertising a new big-box store with a blizzard of television commercials inviting folks to come to the grand opening.  Unfortunately, they attract the attention of Eagan Raize (Chris Backus), a mean-spirited fellow with a grudge against Nelson.  He and his automatic-weapon-toting militia pals invade the store and take everyone in it—including Kyle, Angel and Manny, along with Sam and his bodyguard Starks (Michael Jai White)—hostage, demanding that Nelson publicly confess his crimes and that the authorities indict him.  Otherwise he’ll kill off all his captives.

Naturally Kyle takes action, and in a protracted succession of combat sequences, with fists and firearms, whittles down Eagen’s mini-army until in the end the two face off one-on-one.  The other hostages and store employees are periodically involved in the combat, too—most of them know one another and work together or at cross-purposes—while Nelson snivels in the background, a Malkovich specialty.  But Keeyes never manages to make the layout of the store clear, and as a result everything the action has an ad-hoc, sloppy feel.  He also relies way too much on that hoary old trope in which somebody is groveling on the floor about to be killed by a bad-guy, only to have the attacker be eliminated abruptly who suddenly appears behind him.  By the close it’s happening so often that it’s hard to suppress a giggle.

Despite a few casualties along the way, the ending sees calm restored and Kyle adding a new adoptive son to his family.  He even reaches an unlikely rapprochement with Sam.  So we must conclude that despite all the bloodshed, the mayhem has had a salutary effect.

It’s always fun to watch Malkovich, however awful the material, and that’s the case here.  But though Gibson does a gruff bear routine, he seems tired and out of sorts; White is in better form, though he doesn’t see nearly as much action, while Backus makes a pretty dull villain, despite all the snarls.  Sanchez is cute, though.  The technical credits—Pasha Patriki’s cinematography, Caley Bisson’s production design, Alan Canant’s editing, Benjamin Weinman’s score—are sub-par, and along with Keeyes’s clumsy direction give the result a slipshod feel.               

 “Rogue Hostage” is unlikely to win an Oscar for anything, but one might dream about it taking the Best Picture award, because in addition to its four full producers, no fewer than thirty-two executive and associate ones are listed in the credits.  Any stage would undoubtedly collapse under the crush of such an army scrambling onto it to accept the trophy.  To think the combined effort of so many could result in a stinker like this—a “Die Hard” wannabe in which the action is chaotic and the thrills entirely absent.