Vin Diesel hopes Babylon A.D. doesn’t shoot blanks.
BABYLON A.D. (Mathieu Kassovitz). 90 minutes. Opens Friday (August 29). Rating: NN
Babylon A.D. is a so-so science fiction actioner that short-sells both its action and story elements but offers a little compensation by way of some good visuals.
Word is that director Mathieu Kassovitz (Gothika) detests the film's final cut and blames studio interference, but not even the 11 extra minutes in the French version cited on the IMDB could save his action scenes.
He goes for stale old fragmented images, flashing lights and quick cuts that are meant to cover up the fact that he staged nothing novel or spectacular aside from a decent snowmobile chase across the Arctic waste. Otherwise, it's routine explosions, gunfights and a couple of punch-ups that let Michelle Yeoh flash a few martial arts moves. The climactic car chase fizzles so badly that you only know its the climax because the movie ends soon after.
Yeoh plays the nun who accompanies the girl that materialist (and presumably atheist) mercenary Toorop (Vin Diesel) is hired to smuggle from an Inner Mongolian convent to a New York church that thinks the girl's uncanny abilities will cement its rise to power.
Corrupt religion and a hint in the dialogue about genuine transcendence through human-computer merging could be the set-up for a good science fiction story. Maybe we'll see it in that 11 minutes in a DVD director's cut, but here it's just expository babble.
The dialogue sounds amateurish, and the actors give it their worst. Die sel tries too hard to be tough and thus isn't tough at all. Yeoh tries too hard to be warm, and Mélanie Thierry, as the mystical Aurora, remains a sweet-faced blank throughout. Best fun is Charlotte Rampling as the church leader. She's refined her already brilliant cold-hearted bitch to the level of sublime evil.