Dir: Noel Clarke. UK. 2104. 95mins
Director/actor Noel Clarke seems intent on redefining himself as an action-hero and while he has undeniable charisma this rather clumsy and confusing sci-fi adventure does nobody any favours as it flails about trying to leap from one set-piece fight-scene to the next while never stopping for breath to really explain what on earth is going on.
While there are some smart sci-fi moments it is all rather po-faced and serious and lacks a much-needed sense of humour…let alone a script that makes real sense.
Clarke made his directorial debut with the acclaimed gritty gang drama Adulthood and since then has balanced acting - Star Trek Into Darkness, Storage 24 (which he also scripted) and a regular role in Doctor Who on television – with directing, most recently with heist film 126.96.36.199. This time round he seems intent on reinforcing his action hero credentials (he also credit for additional screenplay work), but to mixed results.
The film, which had its world premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, is being released in the UK via Metrodome with Universal handling international. And while it may have limited theatrical possibilities – and profile at genre festivals may help – the majority of its life is likely to be in home entertainment.
Ex-soldier Ryan Reeve (Clarke) wakes in the back of a van with a kidnapped young boy (Art Parkinson) beside him. They manage to escape, but after a tussle in a graveyard Ryan blacks out, only to wake again days into the future in a different location. It turns out he is being mind-controlled by the mysterious Dr Langham (Brian Cox), but occasionally there is ‘interference’ and he has nine-and-half minutes with his true identity as a traumatised soldier until his mind is re-set.
Time and time again these moments happen, and he uses them to try and fight back against Dr Langham and his son Harkin Langham (Ian Somerhalder) and their plans to use the scientist father of the kidnapped boy to create a deadly virus. Ryan recruits prostitute Dana (Alexis Knapp, from Pitch Perfect) to help him – but has to fight off her brutal pimps – and the pair team up to battle police, pimps and the Langhams as Ryan bids to get control of his brain back.
The structure is all rather familiar (Edge Of Tomorrow meets 50 First Dates) and when it comes to shooting the fight scenes Clarke has clearly been spending a lot of time watching the Matrix films (but without their style and grace), but while there are some smart sci-fi moments it is all rather po-faced and serious and lacks a much-needed sense of humour…let alone a script that makes real sense.
Clarke has real presence (and makes sure there are plenty of eye candy shots of him in his tighty whities to go alongside footage of Alexis Knapp in her undergarments) but often favours clumsy set-ups to tell his story. Most amusing is Brian Cox’s cameo as Dr Langham, spending his entire time wired up to electrodes…talk about wasting a fine actor.
Production companies: Unstoppable Entertainment, Tea Shop & Film Company, thefyzz
International sales: Universal Pictures
Producers: Jessica Caldwell, Noel Clarke, James Harris, Damon Lane, Phil Dore, Johnny Fewings, Kate Glover, Wayne Marc Godfrey, Robert Jones, Mark Lane, Arnaud Lannic
Screenplay: Simon Lewis
Cinematography: David Katznelson
Editor: Tommy Boulding
Production designer: Paul Burns
Music: Tom Linden
Main cast: Noel Clarke, Ian Somerhalder, Alexis Knapp, Luke Hemsworth, Brian Cox, Ali Cook, Art Parkinson, Niall Greig Fulton