BABYLON A.D. (Fox, 2008) D: Mathieu Kassovitz, w/ Vin Diesel, Michelle Yeoh. Rating: NNN; DVD package: NNN Rating: NNN
Atheist mercenary toorop (Vin Diesel) is hired to take virginal mystic Aurora (Mélanie Thierry) and a nun (Michelle Yeoh) from their Inner Mongolian convent to New York. Attempted murders ensue.
This plays so much better on the home screen than in the theatre that it's almost a good movie. Partly that's because it lets you linger over the details of director Mathieu Kassovitz's Russian-flavoured dystopian future. The walk through the bazaar by the train station is well worth a second look.
Mostly, though, it's because this version is 11 minutes longer, so there's time for some context and an exploration of Aurora's strange powers, which adds drama and meaning. Turns out it's about spiritual transcendence via computer, an intriguing idea totally lost in the theatrical cut. It's no Blade Runner, or even Dark City, but I might search out Maurice Dantec's source novel, Babylon Babies.
Dantec's discussion of his novel is one of the two highlights of the extras. The other involves the spectacular stunt work of a snowmobile group called the Slednecks who give the movie its biggest thrills.
Still, apart from the snowmobiles and a slaughter of refugees, the set pieces arrive with the stale old quick cuts and flashing lights that never really manage to cover up the unimaginative action.
Some of the dialogue sounds amateurish, and the actors give it their worst. Diesel tries too hard to be tough. Yeoh tries too hard to be warm. Neither succeeds. Best fun is Charlotte Rampling in her controlled sadist mode as CEO of the Neolite Church.
EXTRAS Making-of doc, three stunt docs, deleted scene, backstory comic. Widescreen. English, French audio. English, Spanish subtitles.