Dir. James Mather & Stephen St. Leger
Just for the hell of it, I'm going to attempt to write this review in under 20 minutes -- or approximately how much time it took screenwriters James Mather, Stephen St. Leger and Luc Besson to cook up this little futuristic action thriller, whose first jarring punch begins about six seconds in.
Our hero is a man named Snow (Guy Pearce) a rough-and-tumble former CIA agent, who as we meet him, is getting pummeled by a muscle-bound CIA operative during an interrogation. Snow is equally quick with both fist and corny joke, no matter how bad things may look for him, which serves him well here. He's beset by CIA operatives, including a dour man named Langral (Peter Stormare), the head of the SS, who has Snow captured and interrogated for some bit of flim-flam involving a double-agent and a briefcase filled with what we can assume is something pretty substantial.
But wait, there's more. Meanwhile, up on an orbiting max security prison, the president's comely daughter, Emily (Maggie Grace), there to check on the living conditions for the cryogenically frozen prisoners, is taken hostage by a pair of menacing Irish brothers, one, Alex (Vincent Regan), the brains of the outfit and the other, Hydell (Joseph Gilgun), the spastic wild card. Snow, for reasons never entirely explained, is the "only one" who has a chance at infiltrating the under siege space prison and save the first daughter ("He's the best there is," the president is duly informed, "but he's a loose cannon."), so Langral has to reluctantly let him go in order to make a bunch of wrong things right.
This would have been about the best movie ever conceived of by a production staff of eight-year-olds, but as it is, the people who made it were (mostly) adults. It's the kind of movie that demands that you completely shut off your common sense chip, while not giving you much of anything in return. The action is ongoing and formidable, but generally without weight or particular merit (a motorized unicycle chase scene early in the film is so rife with CGI and physical implausibility, it might as well have been out of "Mass Effect 3"), enhanced not in the slightest by Pearce's slick funnyman of a hero, who belts out lines such as "Yeah, I thought I smelled you coming!" and "Yeah, I should have stayed in college!", without ever actually appearing to be in on the joke.
John Carpenter made a few films utilizing this kind of plot trajectory and silliness, but he did so joyfully, making otherwise standard action films such as Big Trouble in Little China and Escape From New York into fun-filled bloody romps. It helps when your actors are given something -- anything! -- to do that doesn't involve punching, smirking or making horrible quips at each other. As it is, about the only one who really appears to be enjoying himself is the ever-juddering Gilgun, who attacks his role with the wicked gusto of a man on the third day of a red bull and crystal meth bender. Apart from the ridiculous set-up and obvious action overlays, there isn't anything much else going on here, other than the usual kind of sexual "tension" between the two leads, who hate each other so intensely when they first meet, their only possible outcome is true love.
And we're done. Technically, it actually took me 22 minutes, but that's because I had to look up "juddering" in a thesaurus. And even that showed more effort than this film does to bring on the thrills.