Released: Out now
Director: Mathieu Kassovitz
Screenwriter: Eric Besnard, Mathieu Kassovitz, Joseph Simas
Cast: Vin Diesel, Michelle Yeoh, Mélanie Thierry, Gérard Depardieu, Charlotte Rampling
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Running Time: 90 mins
In the early Nineties, a young, first-time feature director by the name of David Fincher set about shooting the third movie in the Alien franchise, Alien 3. Following from the genre-defining instalments by Messrs Cameron and Scott, he was determined his movie would do the blossoming franchise proud. Before the film could be completed, though, he had abandoned the movie, the set, the whole production. Why? The studio had him hamstrung at every turn, undermining his decisions and rewriting the script as it went along. The studio in question was Fox, and with Babylon A.D. comes clear proof that it’s not concerned with changing its methods, with French director Kassovitz this time feeling the wrath of a studio unaccustomed to not getting its own way.
There is a decent movie buried somewhere in Babylon A.D., admittedly very, very, deep within, but the actual film here is a rambling, befuddled mess of bad acting, bad writing and well, just bad execution full stop.
Vin Diesel, who for the most part appears unsure of whether he is coming or going – understandably such was the film’s prickly shoot – delivers a mumbling, bumbling performance here as Toorop, a gruff mercenary in a gritty dystopia who’s tasked with transporting a precious cargo, a young lady (Thierry), from the depths of Russia to New York. It is a dystopia defined by deprivation, overcrowding and omnipresent advertising and, as such, is a fairly well realised backdrop, but the events that unfold are not so much a film with a beginning, a middle and an end, but more just a ramshackle collection of action scenes that appear to have been somewhat randomly knitted together. And to make things worse, they’re poor action scenes, too.
A story that is unsatisfactorily, and lazily, explained away in the final act; villains, portrayed by Rampling and Depardieu, that are underused; wasted support, most prominently Yeoh; an aimless narrative that wanders to and fro with little to no purpose, and which is loaded with crass dialogue; this film is scuppered at every conceivable turn. Kassovitz has openly distanced himself from the whole thing in the media, chastising Fox for having no guts and for refusing to allow him to work to deliver the film he intended. It’s not hard to see why he’s so peeved.